What Does STD/STI Testing Involve?

Like anything medical, if you’ve never had an STI test before, it can be a bit nervous making. Especially since no one ever bothers to explain anything. STI tests can actually take several forms depending on exactly which STI is being tested for. So if you are being tested for multiple STIs, there may be a couple of different tests.

There are four ways STIs are tested for:

  • Blood testing – includes HIV and Hep, so is part of just about every STI test on the planet
  • Physical Exam – looks for crabs, herpes sores and other obvious signs of STIs
  • Swabs – checks for bacteria such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, and used to test possible herpes sores
  • Urine testing – alternate method for testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia, and a few others.

Every clinic and lab will handle their testing a bit differently, but in general (and depending on what STIs you are being tested for) you can expect something like this:

When you first arrive you fill out any necessary paperwork. The desk may give you a cup to get a urine sample while you wait. When it is your turn, you get called back to see a nurse or med-tech. They’ll have you take off your clothes so they can do a physical exam. They may swab any sores you have or swab the inside of your genitals. After you get your clothes back on they’ll draw blood. Then you head home and you’ll get the results of your tests in a few weeks.

Polyamory and STD/STIs: Getting Tested


The two big questions everyone asks are where to get tested and how much will it cost. Unfortunately, there is a common idea that STD/STI testing is horribly expensive. This keeps many people from getting tested, even though there are many inexpensive options for STD/STI testing. Obviously your options depend a bit on where you live, so I’ll try to break it down a bit. However the default here is US info.

Where to get tested? And what does each cost?

The easy answer here is ‘ask your doctor’. If you have health insurance (or live in a place with universal health care – you lucky bastards) you can get ask your doctor about how and where to get tested for STD/STIs.

If going to your doctor is not an option – for reasons of cost or privacy – there are several other options.

Health Clinics

Your local health department has an interest in keeping STD/STIs under control and treated. In the US, municipal health departments offer STD/STI testing either at special once a month clinics or at special offices set up specifically for STD/STI testing (which depends on how many people they expect to need testing and what they can afford). Their tests are either free or at a nominal fee (usually around $10, though I have seen as high as $30).

Outside of the US, I know that Great Britain, Australia and Canada all offer STD/STI testing centers in addition to the ability to get tested by your doctor. I do not know about the rest of the world, but it is (at least theoretically) easy enough to call your local health department and ask or look them up online.

In the US, these clinics rarely cover all STD/STIs, but they will always cover HIV, Hep B, syphilis and these days gonorrhea. They will rarely test for herpes unless you have a sore of some sort – testing for herpes is unreliable at the best of times and is unlikely to be worthwhile unless you have an active outbreak.


There are also places such as Planned Parenthood where you can get tested (some charge for STD/STI testing, some do not).

Mail Order and Medical Labs

You can also pay out-of-pocket for STD/STI testing. ‘Anonymous’ testing where you send samples by mail order, or you can go down to a local medical lab. The advantage of this is you can get tested for any STD/STI you can afford. However, they will typically charge you over $300 for what you can get for less than $30 from your health department. While it is true that health departments don’t test for all STD/STIs, if you really want to be tested for ‘all’ STD/STIs (I have never seen any lab or for pay program that actually covers all STD/STIs, hell there is no HPV test for men) you are probably best off getting tested by the local clinic for whatever they cover and only paying out-of-pocket for what they don’t cover.

So there you go – finding where to get tested, and affording to pay for it, isn’t nearly as bad as you may have thought.

STD/STI Testing: Introduction

For the past month or so, I’ve covered the various ways poly-folk can reduce their risk of getting infected with STD/STIs. One of those ways which deserves a much closer look is regular STD/STI testing.

Getting tested is fairly standard in the poly community. It’s part of the advice in practically every forum, website and book on polyamory: use protection and get tested. However, STD/STI testing isn’t much talked about. Everyone agrees that getting tested is good, but:

  • What does testing involve?
  • What does it cost?
  • Where can you be tested?
  • What STD/STIs are tested for?
  • How often should you get tested?
  • How often should you ask your partners to get tested?

are questions that rarely come up. So for the next few weeks, I’ll be delving into the nitty gritty of STD/STI testing. Starting with:

What is STD/STI Testing?

The ‘duh’ answer is that STD/STI testing is exactly what it sounds like: medical testing to determine whether or not a person has STD/STIs. And the way we say it makes it sound like there is one straightforward test that you go in and get and when it comes back you know if you have an STD/STI or not.

If only.

‘STD/STI testing’ is really something of a misnomer. There is actually a different test for every STD/STI – well every STD/STI that can be tested for. Some of them have no test in the usual sense. Doctors test for pubic lice with a physical exam, and either they see something or they don’t.

So when you go for an STD/STI test, you are actually going in for a series of tests that may include blood tests, urine tests, cell samples and physical exams. may because it is actually extremely rare for every STD/STI to be tested for. Hep B and HIV are, of course, the big ones. I have never heard of an STD/STI test anytime in the past ten years that didn’t test for Hep B and HIV. Herpes is almost never tested for (and when they do, the tests aren’t very reliable). The only way to know for sure what is being tested for is to ask when you are tested.

Results from an STD/STI test usually take around 2 weeks. A month isn’t unheard of, a week is a pleasant surprise. So don’t go in to get tested expecting to have a print out to show your partners the next day. And speaking of print outs, many STD/STI testing centers don’t give you one. They just call you with your results. By law in the US (and I believe many other countries), you are entitled to a copy of you medical records, so even if they don’t routinely give out printed results it is possible to them, but you may need to jump through some hoops for it.

On a more philosophical level, ‘what’ STD/STI testing is, is the bet way to stop the spread of sexual transmitted infections. Please note, not ‘keep from being infected’ but ‘stop the spread’. When we get tested, we really aren’t doing it for us – if the test comes back positive, we’re already infected. We are doing it for our partners, and their partners, so that if we are infected, we can get treated and take precautions so that our partners (and their partners) don’t get infected. Asking your partners to get tested is for you. Getting tested is for them.

Which leads right into my last thought on ‘what is STD/STI testing’: A damned good way to say ‘I love you.’

People Are Awesome

There is no real reason to bring this post to the new site, but I want to leave it here as a reminder to myself and everyone who sees it that people are indeed awesome. Thank you again to everyone who helped me see my kids in 2012.

Okay, I thought long and hard about doing this, but I am kind of out of other options.

As some of you who have followed me a while may know, in December I lost custody of my children. The judge ruled that because I am polyamorous and poor, my children were better off living with their grandparents.

Shortly after that ruling, my partner and I moved down to Memphis. We stayed in PA as long as we had only because it was required by the old custody situation. We really couldn’t afford the cost of living in PA, and in Memphis we can manage (barely) on my writing income.

Unfortunately, because I ‘chose’ to move away from where my children are now living, I am responsible for all transport for visitation, or they are not able to see me. This summer, I am allowed one week of visitation. It is the first time my children will be with me since December. The last time they will be with me until next summer. If I can afford the cost of transportation.

My best option right now, is to fly East, rent a car for a week, and drive back to Memphis with the kids, then drive back East and fly home. In total, this is going to cost around $1200.

I’ve been trying for months to get it together, but we are really living ‘paycheck to paycheck’ (except that I don’t get paid anywhere near as regular as that implies) and every time I think we are getting ahead another unexpected expense crops up. I am supposed to pick up the kids in two weeks.

Right now I have about $400. My aunt (the wonderful mensch) bought be a round trip ticket for me to fly East and back home. I need another $500 to cover the cost of a rental car and the gas for the trip. I am not, short of winning the lottery, going to get $500 in two weeks, and still pay the rent, buy food and keep the electricity on.

So… I’m asking for help. Below, you’ll see a PayPal donate button. I know times are tough everywhere, and we are not the only people struggling to get by, but if everyone who has been following me on Twitter were to be able to donate $2, I would have more than enough to be able to pay for my kids’ visit. If you have anything to spare right now, please donate, and help me see my children.

(Donation button removed, thank you to everyone who donated)
Thank you to everyone who donates, and to anyone who wants to, but can’t. I’ll keep everyone updated over the next few weeks.

Polyamory and Religion Round Up

As my regular readers know, I’m finally fixing a lot of mistakes and errors in my early blog posts. The religion series was one of the more problematic parts of the blog as I was writing about religions that I am not a part of and in many cases have not taken the time to learn about in depth. I am seeking followers of various faiths who are interested in writing about polyamory and their religion. Until I can get better posts up to replace the old ones, the polyamory and religion series will be unavailable.

There are a huge number of religions that I haven’t covered yet, but I’m also reaching the point of having covered the most commonly talk-about religions in the US, and having trouble getting solid info on any others. Plus, personal stuff getting out of hand of late (as in my paying work isn’t paying and I have massive legal fees to deal with) and I just don’t have the time to spend hours digging into the background of religions I really don’t know anything about. So as and when I have time I may add a new religion to the list, but for now here is the “Not-Yet-Complete List of Polyamory and Religions”

(list is alphabetical)
Polyamory and Buddhism
Polyamory and Christianity
Polyamory and Hinduism
Polyamory and Islam
Polyamory and Judaism
Polyamory and Paganism/Neo-Paganism
Polyamory and Taoism

So there it is for now, as I said, more will probably come in time, and if anyone knows about a religion not on the list and would like to either tell me about it or do a guest post about it, please let me know. If you have info that I missed about a religion already on the list, please feel free to add it to the comments section or send me a message and I’ll edit as appropriate.

Also – I’m rather ignoring the holidays myself this year, given the outcome of my custody case, but I do want to wish a belated Happy Hanukkah, a Merry Christmas, and a good New Year to all of my readers.