I'm 22 and Sexually Active—Here's What Happened When I Finally Had My First STD Test
Young adults are at a greater risk of having a sexually transmitted disease, so Molly Ade decided it was time to do the responsible thing: find a doctor and get screened.
I’m a sexually active 22-year-old woman with what I’d like to think are sound reasoning skills. So I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that the thought finally occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, condoms and “he would tell me if he had a sexually transmitted disease” wouldn’t actually be enough to ensure that I was STD-free.
Fact is, I'd never been tested before. And it started to dawn on me that maybe it's time. My main deterrence was that I did not have a primary care physician or ob-gyn—something many young adults living in a new city don’t have either. I also assumed the process would be time-consuming and difficult. I know Planned Parenthood is an option, but I’d heard stories about hours-long waits to be seen by a doctor there, which I couldn’t do because of my full-time job.
Then I found out another possible place to get screened: urgent care clinics. These walk-in, no-appointment-needed clinics take insurance and offer a range of STD tests, among other things. I decided enough was enough, I had no excuse. It was testing time.
A friend tipped me off to how getting tested at an urgent care facility works. I didn’t walk up to the front desk and announce that I was there for STD tests; I simply told the receptionist I was here to check in, and she motioned to an ATM–like kiosk where I would do the checking in, no human interaction necessary.
I typed in my personal information as well as my insurance info. Then I was told to sit in the waiting area. The check-in machine aside, the clinic fit the bill for a totally standard doctor’s office: it had a clean, quiet waiting room filled with pamphlets, cable TV, and rows of chairs to sit in.
After about 5 or so minutes, a staff member came over with a short form to fill out, confirming that I wasn’t there for a procedure that my insurance wouldn't cover (fortunately, STD tests are covered by my plan). At the bottom of the form was a “reason for visit” section, and though I wasn’t at all embarrassed to be getting STD-tested, it was comforting that I didn’t have to announce it verbally.
Another five minutes later, I was called into an exam room. The nurse took my blood pressure and temperature before asking why I had graced her clinic with my presence that day. (Okay, she didn't exactly say it like that.) I responded that I wanted to get an STD test. “Is there any specific reason you want to get an STD test?” I responded that I simply had never gotten one before and thought it was about time.
She gave me the option of a full STD panel—which included a urine test for chlamydia and gonorrhea and a blood test for HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B and C—or just the urine test. I opted for the full panel, and I was then shipped off to a bathroom to collect my urine in a pee cup.
When I returned, urine in hand, I was met by a different staffer. She also asked me why I showed up at her place of work and then if there was a specific reason, like a weird symptom or unsafe sexual encounter, that made me want an STD test. Nope, I replied, it’s just time to do it.
She listened to my breath and had me lie back to check for any tenderness on my stomach. To wrap up the physical exam portion of my visit, she asked me if I had any lesions or sores on my mouth or genitals, since doctors generally don’t test for herpes unless those symptoms are present. I said no and assured her I’d be back in if that were to change in the future.
As I waited for a technician to draw blood, another staffer popped her head into the room. Confirming again that I was here for an STD test, she too asked if there was any specific reason I had come in for a test. Again I said no, and after asking me if I had been sleeping with men, women, or both, she gave me a consent form to sign. The form allowed the clinic to give me treatment if I tested positive for HIV.
Finally, it was time to take blood. The technician complimented me on my veins and drew two small vials of blood. After patching me up, she informed me my results would be ready in 3 to 5 days through an online clinic portal I could access from my computer at home. The whole visit took 30 minutes, a little surprised and a lot relieved by how quick and easy the process had been.
Now I had to wait for the results, and even though I had no reason to be worried, my mind ran wild for the next three days with the endless cocktails of STDs that could possibly be brewing inside me.
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Three days later, I anxiously logged into the portal to see my results, which fortunately were all negative—and all easy to read, as each test was given a value (for me, it said “negative” or “nonreactive”).
This was good news of course. But it did strike me as odd that neither that day, nor any of the days following, did I receive a phone call or email from the clinic letting me know my results were in. It was up to me, apparently, to check in with the portal and discover that Christmas had come early and my present from Santa was a collection of negative blood and urine panels wrapped in matching bows. All in all, the experience was both stress-free and painless, minor needle-prick excluded.