Sex and Pancakes

Dear Melissa,

I’ve just started dating a new guy and it’s getting pretty serious. We haven’t had sex yet and the other day he asked me if I’ve been tested recently. The thing is—I’ve never really “slept around” or anything, and I know I don’t have anything so I don’t really think I want to subject myself to a trip to my gyno for nothing. I’m starting to wonder if that’s why we haven’t had sex yet. Doesn’t it seem like he’s overreacting?
—Untested





Dear Untested,

Do you think it’s overreacting to get your teeth checked regularly by a dentist? There isn’t always something wrong when you go, but you go as a precaution—just to make sure everything’s okay.

Sexual health is part of your overall health and it’s just one other area that you should check up on regularly. Especially because you’ve never been tested, you really can’t know for certain that you are clean.

Condoms don’t protect you from everything and people who “sleep around” aren’t the only ones who can catch STIs. Everyone wants to believe that their past partners are really honest with them, but some STIs don’t show symptoms—so an infected partner might not even know that they have something.

For example, chlamydia is known as the “silent disease” because most people infected with it have no symptoms at all. It can be easily cleared up with antibiotics, but if you never know that you’re infected it can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and cause infertility.

Another big one that we’ve heard a lot more about lately is Human Papillomavirus. Health Canada estimates that 75 per cent of sexually active people will be infected with at least one kind of HPV infection in their lifetime. HPV is a complicated virus with many different strains. While some are harmless and often clear up on their own, others can cause genital warts and others can lead to cervical cancer in some women.

These are only two of the many different types of STIs out there. These are types that have minimal consequences if caught early through testing but can be life altering if ignored.

I understand why some people are scared to get tested, but it really is better to know, because the longer you wait, the fewer options you have.

This isn’t meant to scare you; it’s just meant to get you to think about what could be at stake.

By the way, if you feel like you’re “subjecting” yourself to your gyno, then it may be time to find another. As uncomfortable as it can be, your doctor should be doing whatever they can to make the experience more comfortable for you.

Check out Concordia Health Services, or your local CLSC. If you already go there, you can easily ask to see a different doctor. The Jewish General Hospital also offers a free walk-in STI clinic*.

Finally, you should consider yourself lucky to have a partner who cares about how safe you’ve been, because that probably means he’s been pretty safe himself. With that in mind, wouldn’t it suck if you were so sure you didn’t have anything and it turned out you did—and then passed it along?

—Melissa Fuller

*Jewish General, STI Clinic: 3755 Côte-Ste-Catherine, Pavilion G, Room 148, 340-8222 ext. 8230

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This article originally appeared in The Link Volume 31, Issue 23, published February 15, 2011.

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