profile illustration of tess catlett, a white woman with black roots blended into white hair, two nose piercings, and red lipstick, wearing a light blue medical gown; she has her right arm crossed, revealing a dagger tattoo on the back of the arm. her left arm is reaching outward to place a urine sample cup and two test tubes on an out-of-view table.Share on Pinterest
Illustration by Brittany England

I haven’t gotten screened for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in over a year. (I know, I know. A sex editor slacking on routine testing? More likely than you think!)

And, if I’m being honest, it isn’t entirely the COVID-19 pandemic’s fault — my last test for gonorrhea and chlamydia (G & C) was in December 2019. I had almost 3 months to get my sh*t together before lockdown began.

I wish I could say I had a good reason, but that wouldn’t make for a teachable moment, now, would it?

In the Before Times, I got screened for G & C like clockwork. Regardless of who I was seeing or how many people I hooked up with, I was at the lab every 2 to 3 months to pee in a cup.

Sometimes, I’d even spring for the “full panel” (which, spoiler alert, doesn’t actually test for everything) to check for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis, and HIV in addition to G & C.

But, somewhere between my current partner asking to be monogamous and my subsequently canceled dick appointments, I got lazy.

Why STI testing matters

The last time I got lazy, my then-partner gifted me with not one, not two, but three (!) STIs throughout the course of our ill-fated relationship. Fortunately, I didn’t contract anything that a course of antibiotics couldn’t cure.

(On the other hand, the post-traumatic stress disorder that resulted from 2 years of being lied to, gaslit, and otherwise abused still lingers. You win some, you lose some, I guess.)

Which brings me to where I am now: sitting in the waiting room at my doctor’s office with a clipboard of invasive-but-necessary questions staring me down.

It’s not that my current partner did anything outside of the boundaries of our relationship; to my knowledge, he hasn’t. And it isn’t even about the possibility that he could have.

It’s about me taking responsibility for my health and making sure I’m aware of any changes that could affect me or my current partner.

In other words, I’m putting my money where my mouth is and actually following the advice I give to everyone else in my life, including Healthline readers.

Where to start

If you haven’t gotten tested in a while — or ever — know that you aren’t alone. It happens to the best of us. But, if you have the option to change that, consider this your sign.

Whether you’re covered through a state or federal program, between employer-sponsored policies, or have an insurance policy that completely sucks (officially known as being “underinsured”), STI testing is available.

Here, Gabrielle Kassel breaks down where to access free or low-cost STI testing in all 50 United States and D.C.

Plus, find out ~where~ to test (Throat? Anus? Genitals? All the above?) and how to prepare for an in-person appointment during the pandemic.

If you’re wondering about at-home STI testing (it’s a thing, and it works!), check out this guide from Carly Vandergriendt.

She’s got the deets on which kits to consider, how to get an accurate result, what to do if the test is positive, and more.

Navigating your results

PSA: There’s nothing wrong with receiving a positive result.

Hell, I’d argue that receiving a positive result is infinitely better than receiving no result at all — because not getting a result could mean long-term health complications for you and a potential infection for your past, present, and future partners.

Adrienne Santos-Longhurst has some tips for having that conversation — no matter the results, you need to share. Plus, discover what to do if you or your partner receive an HIV diagnosis. (Yes, sex is absolutely still on the table.)

And if that convo includes disclosing a herpes diagnosis, Crystal Raypole has you covered. Here, she explores what this means for your sex life, how to talk to your partner(s) about it, and what to expect from treatment.

Still have questions? Check out our roundup of the most searched STI Qs.

Getting busy

Ready to bang? Knowing your STI status is the first step to having a happy, healthy sex life. (Next up: getting vaccinated for COVID-19.)

Once you know your results and have taken the necessary precautions to prevent transmission, you’re free to get your freak on. Here’s how to do it during the pandemic with folks in and outside your pod.

And if you’re in the market for a new sex toy, these remote- and app-controlled beauties are perfect for across-the-room or long-distance play.

Something else on your mind? Our sexual health hub covers everything from pandemic-related relationship woes and oral sex tips to decoding your dreams, getting into kink, and more.

Tess Catlett is a sex and relationships editor at Healthline, covering all things sticky, scary, and sweet. Find her unpacking her inherited trauma and crying over Harry Styles on Twitter.