Auntie SparkNotes: All About STD Testing
Dear Auntie Sparknotes,
I am a sexually active female college freshman who is mutually exclusive to my SO. We are each other’s first sexual partner and have been consistently using condoms every time we do the HND. However, he wants to do it without condoms because he wants “direct skin-to-skin contact.” At first, I was a bit wary due to pregnancy risks but I was also very interested on how it would feel. Therefore, I went to a gynecologist for birth-control pills and also got tested for STDs. After the appointment, I tried to ask my SO to get tested as well. He is currently dorming in a different college and sharing a restroom with about ten other people (mainly males). I am afraid that no matter how hard he tries to keep his visits to the restroom clean and sanitary, the chances of him unknowingly contracting an STI from someone else still exist! Therefore, I want him to get tested too so that we would not put each other at risks for STIs when we do it without the latex protection barrier. However, he is wary of getting tested because of the fear that his parents might find out that he is sexually active from his family doctor. I told him that since he is 18 his doctor might not disclose the information if he asks for privacy, though I am not entirely sure. Then I suggested going to a Planned Parenthood clinic but he is worried about the costs, or that his parents will still find out when they look at their insurance bill. He also reasoned that since we are mutually exclusive to each other and I have been ingesting his fluids, if I was positive for any STI he would be too so there is no need for him to get tested. I find this to be a sound argument but at the same time, I cannot shake my uneasiness and worries. Is his argument reasonable? Am I just being a worrywart? Is there any way for him to get tested without his parents finding out? Please, help!
Help is on the way, Sparkler! Or at least, it will be! In just a minute! Right after I recover from the out-of-body experience I had when I got about one-third of the way through your letter, and discovered that we live in a world where an intelligent, articulate college freshman can still somehow believe that it's possible to get an STD from a toilet seat. Good lord, that sentence made my BRAIN CRY. I don't know where you got that idea—and eesh, I hope it wasn't in school—but STDs are so-called because they are transmitted sexually. So unless you are grinding your nethers all over the bathroom fixtures (or sitting on an infected toilet with a gaping wound on your butt), then you're not going to pick up any bug in the bathroom that you wouldn't get more easily from a doorknob or ATM pinpad.
But with that out of the way, I do want to give you a standing ovation for being careful with your health, for being firm with your boyfriend about what you need in order to feel confident and comfortable, AND for discussing it maturely when he asked for something you felt a little uneasy about. Because just for the record (and because I've noticed a certain amount of snap-judgment in the air lately, to the effect of "If a dude doesn't want to wrap his wiener in latex, he is actually the devil,") yes, condoms are the best (and pretty much only) way to protect yourself from STDs. That's why it's important to use them as long as there's even an iota of doubt about the state of your partner's health—and why it's not cool for a guy to insist that you ride bareback, so to speak, until that doubt has been dispensed with through medical means. But that doesn't make it evil to prefer doing the HND without a barrier, and if that is what you want, there's nothing wrong with discussing with your partner how you might do so safely and responsibly.
And when it comes to that part, I've got good news: your boyfriend has a lot of options when it comes to getting tested—and pretty much all of them come with no possibility of his parents finding out. Doctors cannot disclose medical information about their patients without permission; it's part and parcel of your right to privacy, and it's a very big deal. (If you're a minor seeing a pediatrician, you're still entitled to confidentiality, but you should get verbal confirmation from your doctor that he won't share your information with your parents.) And Planned Parenthood, which is a lifesaving source of information and medical care if you're short on cash, offers low and no-cost STD testing without the need for insurance. The only place he (or anyone else) would need to tread carefully is with the insurance company: in that case, he should call ahead to his insurance carrier, express his concerns about privacy, and ask how they code their invoices to make sure he won't be outed if and when the bill shows up.
Oh, but there's one other thing. And this thing, I am telling you cautiously and [places hand meaningfully on Punishment Salmon] with the caveat that it only applies under one, very specific set of circumstances, and that if these circumstances don't apply, his getting tested is non-negotiable. Okay? The thing is this: the way that STDs are transmitted is, again, sexually. And you say that you and this guy were each other's firsts. So if your boyfriend was utterly inexperienced before you got together—if he had never gotten up close and personal, with any part of his body, to anyone else's naked bits—then this is the one and only time in your lives when an STD test isn't a strict prerequisite for sex. There. Merry Christmas.
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