And we’re back with Dr. Katharine O'Connell White, the Director of the Family Planning Fellowship at Boston University—this time to talk about STIs. (We talked to her about sex and birth control too!) If you’re sexually active, being able to talk openly with your doc about STIs is a must. Your doctor is in the perfect position to not only answer your STI questions, but help you understand which STIs you could be at risk for and how they can affect your life. Asking the right questions and divulging the right information is what’s going to keep you healthy and happy. So here’s how to prep for the convo:
1. If Confidentiality is a Concern, Know Your Options.
If you’re going to your doctor for the specific reason of getting tested for STI’s, those test may be processed through your insurance and show up on the insurance bill that goes to your parents. If you want more privacy, Dr. Kate recommends going to a health clinic. “Cities often have city or state public health clinics that will offer free or low cost, confidential testing,” She says. “And Planned Parenthood is an excellent, safe place to go even if you’re not in an urban area.”
2. Know When To Bring Up STIs.
Many health care providers recommend getting screened for STIs annually. “But if you got tested 6 months ago but you’re worried you were exposed to something, tell your doc and run the tests again,” Says Dr. Kate. “Whatever sexual encounter has you worried, be honest about that and get tested, even if you were already tested somewhat recently.”
3. Be Honest.
Lying to your doctor about your sexual history doesn’t do anybody any good. “Don’t worry about telling doctor your number, they won’t judge,” says Dr. Kate. “Also be honest about your current relationship. Your doctor wants to know you’re safe and in an okay place with the person you’re with.” Telling your doctor what type of sexual activities you engage in can also help them determine which STIs you should be screened for. And remember, a doctor should never scold you or lecture you, and if they do, it’s time to find a new one.
4. Ask About The Tests.
A lot of people go to the doctor and get “tested for STIs.” But there are a lot of STIs out there, and many doctors don’t routinely test for all of them. If you’re getting STI tests from your doctor ask what tests they’re running. You may also want to ask how early the tests can be used. “If you have unprotected sex Saturday night, Monday morning you may not test positive for any STIs even if you did contract one,” Says Dr. Kate. “Your health care provider may want to see you 1-3 months later, because many STIs can take a while to show up on a test.”
5. Ask For a Copy of Your Results.
“Many offices have a no news is good news policy,” Says Dr. Kate. But she also warns that some results can slip through the cracks so if you haven’t heard anything in a week or two it’s completely reasonable to call the office and ask for your results.
6. Talk About Future Protection.
While you’re with your doctor, make sure to ask about protecting yourself from STIs. You may want to talk to them about vaccines, or ask any questions you might have about condoms. Your health care provider should be able to tell you exactly how to use a condom, and address any concerns you may have about them. The more open and honest you are, the more you’ll know about safer sex, and the lower your chances will be of contracting an STI.
If you want to get tested and are looking for a health clinc, check out our clinic finder!