Dear Hedda: If I am in a monogamous relationship, and I know my partner and I don't have any STIs, is there ever a reason to go get tested? I feel like if I trust my partner not to cheat on meand potentially get an STI from someoneelse, we won't really prioritize getting tested unless we must. Plus, I think I would have a hard time convincing my boyfriend to get off his butt and do so if there isn't a good reason! — Lazy in Love
Dear Lazy in Love: We recommend that everyone who is sexually active make an STI panel test part of their annual healthcare examination. Being in a committed monogamous relationship certainly reduces your chances of encountering an STI, but some are highly contagious and may not appear as such. For example, in the secondary stage of syphilis people develop a rash, the rash appears on the person’s hands, feet and torso. Ask yourself, would you think a rash on a person’s hands, feet or torso is an STI? Probably not, right? The rash may or may not be painful if you touch it, and you can contract syphilis from it. When in doubt, get a test. Your reproductive and overall health may depend on it. Did you know that some agencies offer home STI-testing kits, so you can do the tests in the privacy of your own home? Locally, Northland Cares provides this service — discreet and effective!
Dear Hedda: Do you have any advice on how to talk to someone you are not in a relationship with about using a dental dam while going down on them? I just want to keep us both safe, but they are so uncommon that people get freaked out or offended when I mention it. I have even had someone tell me that wanting to use one was me suggesting they were unclean. Help! — Saran-wrapped Sapphic
Dear Saran-Wrapped Sapphic: Good for you for trying to keep yourself and your partner safe! Dental dams are an excellent prevention tool, they come in a variety of colors and flavors, and using lube can increase the sensation. You may want to talk to your partner and explain that most STIs are a symptomatic, which means a person can have one and not know. Having an STI does not make a person dirty or unclean, it just means a person encountered one while engaging in unprotected sex. These pathogens have been around for centuries and they can have serious consequences if left untreated. Let your partner know that oral STIs can be transmitted between your mouth and genitals and you want to make certain they are protected too. You can also suggest that since you are being intimate together, it may be a good idea for you to both get checked and share your results. This can increase both intimacy and trust.
Dear Hedda: I want to know how I can tell the difference between razor bumps downstairs and bumps that could be something more serious. I feel like I get jaded about seeing bumps down there occasionally when I shave, so I just slap on some lotion and forget about it. I don't want to have to go get tested every time a pimple shows up. Any advice? — Calamine Queen
Dear Calamine Queen: I understand your plight! There are STIs that cause genital sores: syphilis will first appear as a small, slightly raised, painless sore that most people miss. Herpes causes blister-like sores which can appear anywhere on the body and do not resemble pimples. Donovanoisis, aka granuloma inguinale, is rarely seen in the US with about 100 cases per year, and mainly found in India, Guyana, and New Guinea. These sores are painless red lumps on or near your genitals, which will slowly enlarge and then break down to a sore. Lymphogranuloma venereum is an ulcerative disease caused by chlamydia trachomatis. It starts as a small, barely noticeable blister that will then heal. In the next stage, your groin lymph nodes swell and it can affect your labia. Pubic lice can also cause sores, and these little critters are visible with your eyes, as are their nymphs and eggs. Scabies will itch, present as red papules, and the itching increases at night. If you are up for it, you can search online for good info on these STIs and their respective sores for an afternoon of fun education!
Thank you Lazy in Love, Saran-Wrapped Sapphic and Calamine Queen for writing to me, and for helping ask questions others may be afraid to ask! I’m Hedda Fay reminding you that the best orgasm is one that’s protected!
Hedda Fay is Community Outreach and Program Manager at Northland Cares. Contact Hedda with your questions at 928-776-4612 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hedda Fay, the Community Outreach and Program Manager of Northland Cares, answers your questions about sex and sexual health.