Doin’ It With Dr. V: How To Tell Someone They Need To Get Tested For STDs

Hi, I’m Dr. V. I’m not a real doctor, I just play one on the Internet. What I am is a lady, a lady who is a fool for love! And I love nothing more than sex. My deepest desires have happily led me on many adventures in the sack, but they have also, sadly, made me one of my gyno’s most valuable players. But I’ve lived to tell the tale(s)! So, from time to time, I will dish the dirt on everything from getting freaky to getting freaked out. Now, let’s get this party started…

This week, I got an alarming phone call. My most recent ex-boyfriend went to get tested like a sensible young man and I’m so proud of him — but I’m sorry he had to call me with his results. While it wasn’t good news, I’m truly grateful he talked to me about it openly. Sex is dirty, and sometimes you can’t totally clean up the mess, but you can always take measures to stop it from spreading! I know my ex was not so thrilled to have to call me to tell me to get tested too, however, it made me realize why I was with him in the first place. He’s respectable and responsible for divulging what he knows with me, for better or for worse. Although it can be a tearful inspiration, I’d like to dedicate this installment of Dr. V to all the men and women, like my ex-boyfriend out there, who are brave enough to pick up the phone and show someone they still care by telling them the truth about their health and the risks they shared. According to the CDC, who just this week reported 19 million cases of STDs in 2007, there are a lot of people who need to make a similar confession. So, here’s how you do it, as pain-free as possible.
HOW IT HAPPENED TO ME
I’ve been in my ex’s position before. While I had dated guys with a variety of issues before who were upfront about their STD status, the first “You need to get tested” call I ever had, I had to make myself. After letting a guy I was dating go down on me, I wound up getting what I thought was the world’s worst yeast infection. Within a week, even after trying some over the counter remedies, it had gotten so bad I went to see the gyno. Turns out I actually had trichomoniasis. That’s right folks, I got an STD just from oral sex. Granted it is the most common curable STD in young women, but I was still shocked!

My gyno told me to call my partner because most men don’t show symptoms of carrying the bacteria, let alone in their mouths. I was so afraid, I held on to my stuffed animal from childhood, took a deep breath, and dialed. What if my new boo never wanted to see me again?! Well, after I tried to describe it as casually as possible and gave him all the easy antibiotic treatment info, he didn’t seem to care. He admitted he had been seeing another girl on the side and blamed it on her. How rude!

What he should have said was, “Sorry to hear that, I will be responsible and go to my doctor to get checked. Plus, I promise I’ll tell anyone else who might be affected.” Instead, this dude also told me it was no big deal since he didn’t have any symptoms and that was all he cared about. That didn’t make me feel better because he was being so cavalier about something important. I told him I never wanted to see him again, unless he went to his doctor and took the antibiotics! Like I really wanted to get infected again!

WHO IS TO BLAME
Sheesh, you heard my stories. In the case of an STD, it’s actually the person who doesn’t tell the truth that’s to blame. There are millions of Americans living and loving happily who have been exposed to STDs, about 65 million have a viral STD. So, let’s face it, we like to hump. No regrets! The only thing worth feeling sorry about is when you don’t do the mature thing and you try to save face by either hiding it, ignoring it, lying about it, or refusing to seek treatment. It’s life, deal with it! STDs are so common, even those who are super duper careful can’t completely avoid them. So what is a girl to do? Stop having fun? Heck no! Just make sure you play nice and as safely as possible.

WHAT TO DO
Privacy is the key. If you’re currently in a relationship, sit them down for a chat. Don’t hide behind technology — face-to-face is the way to go. This way, you can really talk about how it could affect your relationship. So, make sure you don’t do it in a crowded restaurant, have a discussion somewhere just as private as the problem.

Now, if you have an STD and you want to reach out to an ex, I think the best way to share the information is through a phone call. It gives the other person the freedom to listen, ask questions, and fully react without having to face you — that can make a weird situation even more uncomfortable. It also shows you care and genuinely didn’t mean for the accident to happen, without putting them in an awkward situation. It’s hard to meet up and talk about your potential problem in public with an ex, like over an overpriced cappuccino and biscotti, as delicious as they are.
But even if you don’t want to admit things face-to-face or cellie-to-cellie, you have to get the information out there to those who it also affects. Sometimes, the place you get tested at will even make the phone call for you. So you can stay anonymous! Another way to keep your identity a secret is with a charming, yet direct STD e-card. You got your box stuffed, so might as well fill their inbox. Bottom line, you’ve got to tell them somehow!

WHERE I WENT WRONG
Don’t panic. It’s easy to get trapped in a freak out! After all it’s your pleasure center we’re talking about here! But seriously, the world isn’t ending and you don’t have to be like the fear mongering local news anchor of STDs. Until you know your results, relax until you get the facts. I once admitted to a guy I was dating that I was about to get tested because I thought there might be an issue. He was supportive, but nervous. When there was nothing to worry about (whew!), he laughed at my crazy ass. While this story has a happy ending, I wish there was no story like this at all. Alas, he was at least secure in our relationship knowing I would never try to jeopardize his trust.

As for me now, I know I’ll be okay, no matter what. The worst-case scenario could happen, but rest assured I’m not the only one who has ever had to deal with it. In fact, a dude I was totally into is grappling with the same ramifications. Plus, there’s a community of people out there who share the same infection and experience, and in a lot of cases, there are even support groups. So, chin up!

TIME TABLE
Don’t take a chill pill once you know — call or email whoever might affected be as soon as you can. Sitting on that kind of information puts more people at risk. Don’t be selfish! Now, don’t go on calling them at 3am, drunk as a skunk, but own up to everyone involved ASAP.

EMBARRASSMENT FACTOR
Having an STD, no matter which one, does not mean your sex life is over. While the news may seem bad, it’s never hopeless. That being said, the embarrassment factor on this one is huge. If you look up “awkward” in the dictionary, calling someone to tell them you have an STD is one of the examples. Okay, I made that up, but you get my point. It’s rough, it takes a lot of courage and there’s no guarantee the person won’t lash out at you or spread your secret. On the other hand, even if they do tell your secret, you just look like a responsible person for having told them. And hey, now you won’t have to tell any of those people yourself! So, it’s best to stay your mature, adult self and take your lumps — no pun intended. In time, it won’t seem so bad. On the other hand, if you stay quiet, it spreads and then gets traced back to you, you will look even worse, like the king of all douche bags. Honesty is always the best policy.

TIPS
1. Courage Under Fire: Be cool, stay calm. No matter what you’re talking about or who you’re talking to, try not to yell, cry, or deflect blame. Go for the facts! They may freak out at you, but it’s just because they’re scared. Remember, you were too! So, prepare yourself for the worst and hope for the best. Be as reasonable and compassionate as possible.
2. Apologize: Even if it’s really not your fault, say you’re sorry for causing someone else stress and potentially giving them a party favor. It’s the nice thing to do amd this is an appropriate time for a bit of open repentance. It’s also cleansing for you.
3. 411 Over 911: Give all the information you can, share what you know. Tell them your course of treatment and any tidbits you’ve learned. This will help the person control their fears and decide how to take action. “Knowledge is power!”
4. R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Sometimes you might suspect the person you’re telling has actually given you the STD. That’s a tricky situation, but don’t go accusing anyone of anything. What good is that going to do you now anyway?
5. Our Lips Are Sealed: STDs are a personal matter. Ask for discretion and that goes for you too — don’t go blabbing about the person all over town. When you discuss the problem openly, which is totally your prerogative, leave their name out of it. If they want to tell their story, that’s their decision.
6. A Friend In Need: …Is a friend indeed. If you can, offer to go with them to the doctor for support. Getting tested is scary and nerve-racking! It really can help to know someone is there to keep you company through the dreaded doctor visit, waiting room and all.

SEXY TIMES
I ALWAYS use a condom because it’s the best way I can protect myself from the vast majority of STDs. Plus, I’m saving condom-less sex for marriage. Call me a romantic, but until you put a ring on it, you’re going to have to wear a glove. It’s a necessity of free love.

FUNKY FACTS
1. Women, ages 15-24, comprise the highest risk group for STDs.
2. By age twenty-five, 50% of people will have had an STD.
3. An untreated STD is to blame for infertility in at least 15% of women.
4. STI (sexually transmitted infection) is the new PC term making a push to replace for STD (sexually transmitted disease). Since many STIs are curable and also asymptomatic, public health experts feel like disease just doesn’t appropriately describe the situation.
5. The CDC has a 24-hour hotline to field your questions: 1-800-227-8922.

[ASHA]
[CDC]
[Sex, Etc.]
[Inspot.org]

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