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Bring up the conversation: Get Tested By Alexander Martin, Outreach Coordinator, Central Illinois Friends

It is February, and that means Valentine’s Day. As you plan for your dinners, dates, outings, and other festive love-filled activities, why not add a quick STI screening to the list with your new boo? Sounds awkward? Intimidating? Well, it definitely can be. With all of the stigma we have out there related to sexual health, sex, and STI’s, it is no wonder people are afraid to have that conversation. Some people are even afraid to bring up condoms, so talking about sexual health history and getting tested can feel like an impossible task, but I am here to tell you it is not.

For this Valentine’s day, if you are sweet on somebody new, why not bring up the conversation? I know it can feel awkward at first, but taking your health into consideration is an attractive trait. The more we as a society talk about these things, the more we can end the stigma, and the easier it will be to talk about it in the future. Whenever I meet someone new that I am interested in, after a few dates, I try to bring up the convo. I will admit since it is something I do for work, it is a little easier to talk about. Having to talk about it every day with clients and co-workers makes it a lot easier to bring up. But that just proves the point that the more we bring it up, the more we have an open and honest conversation, the less intimidating it is. If you have been seeing someone and bringing up the topic of sexual health is a problem with them, you may want to navigate and see what barriers they have and why.

If you are taking both of your healths into consideration, then bringing up a test should not be a big deal, right? Well, we know that it is because of stigma. We all feel a little anxious or nervous when talking about it. We still have guilt when it comes to these topics because of our dominant culture’s view on sex. But talking about it lowers those barriers. Adding it to a date, facing that initial awkwardness, can open up a world of conversation and honesty. It sets a strong foundation that will have so many benefits. It is also just like a regular check-up or visit to the dentist; it is another facet of your health to take into consideration.

This Valentine’s day take some time to talk about your sexual health before you engage in all of the wonderful holiday festivities. Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you and a Happy Black History Month! Let’s spread the love not only to our romantic interests this month but also to those in our community and to our ancestors; may they rest in power!

For education and information on free sexual health screenings (HIV/HepC/Sexually Transmitted Infections) in the greater Peoria area contact Central Illinois FRIENDS at (309) 671-2144 to set up an appointment.

HIV testing locations and other information can be also be obtained by calling the IDPH HIV/AIDS & STD hotline at 1-800-AID-AIDS (1-800-243-2437).

You can learn more about what was talked about above here:

https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/art/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/prep/index.html

If you live outside the greater Peoria area please visit: www.hivcareconnect.com to find a resource near you.