Myself and Forrest head to testing every three months. We have to so we can stay on Prep. But going to the clinic, for prep or whatever, can be intimidating yet getting tested is so important. So many STIs are so easy to catch and although prep won’t stop the likes of chlamydia or gonorrhoea getting tested catches these STIs early and gives you the chance to get treated and continue with a healthy sex life.
But what about people who are embarrassed or nervous about going to a clinic? Well, that’s acceptable, some people have this issue and it shouldn’t bring judgement on them. We all have things we’re embarrassed or nervous about. If you call the clinic they’ll tell you that you don’t have to use your real name and they give you a number. This number is used when they call you from the waiting room rather than them hollering out your name. This still doesn’t help some people and neither does the fact that in Ireland you can go to any GUM clinic. You don’t have to attend the one in your county. That doesn’t help those that can’t drive or make the time to go while they’re open.
To combat this and help people have healthy sex lives the HSE have introduced home testing kits. So just how effective are they?
I ordered one to test it out and just be sure their results matched the GUM clinics I took myself off for a full screening at my local clinic at the same time.
Heading over to sh24.ie I completed their easy online form. It asked a bunch of questions about my status. Depending on how I answered it either gave me a useful tip or moved to the next section. For example, when I said I’d had unprotected sex it suggested I seek advice about Prep, along with a bunch of other bits.
The site assures you the kit comes in discreet packaging and I always laugh at this. I once ordered a sex toy online and although the packaging was plain the customs label stated exactly what it was. The website states that due to Royal Mail strikes my kit may take longer to arrive so if it was coming from the UK would it also have a customs label and what would it say? As I’m open about my sexuality, sexual health and exploits it made no difference to me how it came but this could be a big issue for others.
So, kit ordered it was time to wait.
Two days after ordering I got a text. “Your test kit has been dispatched. Delivery may take up to 15 days. Please don’t reorder – we can’t accept a new order while this is in progress. Thanks, SH:24.” 15 days felt like a long time to wait but given the strikes and general issues with UK to Ireland post, I don’t think there’s much more they could have done. Two weeks, for me, is acceptable. If I was THAT desperate for a test I could go to the clinic.
The next day another text arrives. “Hello. Here’s some helpful information while you wait for your test kit. Infections may not show up in tests immediately. If you think you may have been exposed to an STI we recommend testing for chlamydia and gonorrhoea 2 weeks after sex. For your blood test, we recommend testing 7 weeks after potential exposure (for HIV), and then consider testing again 5 weeks later as the window period for syphilis, hepatitis B and hepatitis C is 12 weeks. Watch this 2-minute video to prepare to take your blood sample: https://youtu.be/vZ95tnbcexs We apologise in advance for any delivery delays. Thank you for your patience, SH:24”
For me this is great way to support people. Some people might not know the incubation times for some STI’s so now, with the text, you know to wait before using your kit, if you think you’ve been exposed to one of those.
Talking to someone about this they bought up the point that waiting could hinder someones sex life. Yeah, I get that, but personally I would rather use a condom or have some sexy alone time (we have lots of toys) than potentially risk the health of someone else. If you have regular hook ups they should understand you need for protection while you await the results and you have the rest of you life to make up for a few weeks of no humping! And to be honest, if someone told me they were waiting on results I’d be holding back from them until they got the all clear or used protection. You shouldn’t be putting other peoples health at risk.
Anyway, on with the test stuff.
It was approximately a week after I ordered the test that it arrived. Sure enough it was in plain packaging and yes, there was a customs declaration. All it said was “plastic kit.” Well sure, that could have been anything from a Airfix model to reusable coffee cup. I was pleased they hadn’t let me down with this.
Opening the kit I found a myriad of medical stuff that you’d find in your doctors surgery and each one came with a card of very clear instructions. It really was easy to follow.
After peeing into a cup, swabbing my throat and butthole (different swabs, thank you!) and squeezing some blood from my finger, everything was done and back in the return free-post envelope (provided) ready to be sent for testing.
A few days after posting it another text arrived. “Hello. We have received your SH:24 test kit which will be processed within 72hrs. We will send your results by text – if you are worried about privacy, you may wish to change your phone’s notification settings. Thanks, SH:24”
I found this really reassuring because until then my brain had been having these thoughts about my DNA flying around Europe. I watch way too many true crime shows because at one point I had this vision of being accused of a murder as my blood had been found at the scene of murdered postie! Well of course it was officer! He was carrying a vial of my blood! If I was a cop I’d be hard pushed to initially believe that.
I digress. It was a comfort to get that text but it was the result I was interested and sure enough, 24 hours later I got what I wanted. Another text!
“You tested negative for HIV, chlamydia (anus, genital and throat), gonorrhoea (anus, genital and throat), hepatitis C and syphilis (EIA). If you’d like to test again, check when to test here: https://sh24.org.uk/when Thanks, SH:24”
This was good news. Or was it? I’d followed the instructions perfect and, for reasons, I assure you I knew what I was doing, but, what if I had done it wrong. The proof would be in the results from the GUM clinic.
I called the clinic to get the news. “Hi Hunter. Yeah, everything is clear and negative. Oh your liver and kidneys are fucked* but your STI checks are all fine. See you in three months.”
So it seems the service from SH:24 works really well.
I have to say I’m incredibly impressed with the way it all worked. From ordering online to the text messages. Not having to speak to someone is a massive benefit. Speaking to someone on the phone can be a challenge if you’re worried about being judged, even though operators are absolutely not judging you. Just because we know that it doesn’t take away the feeling that they might be.
The results came quickly and the website has a wealth of information on it, which you can check out before ordering. To be honest, it’s worth checking the website out anyway to keep yourself informed of current advice around STI’s.
*She didn’t say fucked. But they are.
Heart of lion, pecs like dinner plates, mind of a whore.
The reason your dad left home and the person to whom you say “You should smile more!” – Fuck off!