Getting tested: sign of trust, honesty

By James Casey

If you’re starting an intimate relationship with somebody, it is important to discuss sexually transmitted infections as early as possible.

There’s an obvious problem with this conversation: It’s a bit awkward to bring up and can be a mood killer. Since I consider myself quite awkward, I thought it would be best to seek the advice of others on how to properly approach this topic.

“Do not wait until you’re about to have sex to have this conversation,” said Alicia Czachowski, assistant director of Health Enhancement. “There is no formula for when to bring it up. It’s whenever is best for you and your partner. Casually introduce it as something you want to have a serious conversation about.”

Bringing up the topic in this way will allow your partner the opportunity to prepare, and if your partner is knowingly positive for an STI, he or she is more likely to be honest. They most likely have the exact same concerns as you and simply don’t want to drop an awkward bomb.

“Be honest,” said Czachowski. “If you’ve had sex before, let them know. Go get tested together. It shows a commitment to the relationship.”

People may also be afraid to introduce the topic because it seems like they’re accusing the other person. I don’t believe any reasonable person should respond in this way. Discussing STI’s shows a level of concern and maturity that should be valued.

The state of Illinois ranks near the very bottom for percentage of teenage girls having received the human papillomavirus vaccine, ahead of only Arkansas and Mississippi, according to the Chicago Tribune. This tells me there’s an epidemic of ignorance in this state and people need to bring the safer sex discussion to the foreground.

There are 20 million new STI infections each year and 110 million total infections across the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control. These STI’s result in a heavy financial burden, but more significantly they affect the health of individuals and relationships.

I’m reminded of a scene from “The Rules of Attraction.” One character would look at a picture book of STI’s before she would go to a party. I think that’s a smart way to remind yourself of the dangers of STI’s, which become more problematic if alcohol or drugs are introduced to the equation. I’m thinking about putting up some ultra-graphic posters for my next party.

Having an STI, however, is not the end of the world. There are steps that can be taken to ensure safer sex practices despite an infection. If these practices are well understood and properly followed, an STI does not have to deter pursuing a relationship.

The desire to be open and honest must conquer the fear of an uncomfortable truth. Honesty should be the cornerstone of any healthy relationship in your life. It’s just a lot easier to be truthful about your favorite movie than the frequency and the results of STI testing.

This can change if we all start talking about it. Hopefully STI’s will someday easily fit into the “getting to know you small talk.” Until then, we must pursue honesty through awkwardness.

The CDC encourages everyone to get tested for STI’s once a year. Health Services, the DeKalb County Health Department and your private physician are all good places to go.

Safe sex supplies are available for free at Health Services and Health Enhancement in the Chick Evans Field House. Remember: Always be open to discussing your past and getting tested. It’ll make a major difference in your relationships.