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Let’s Get Tested: The Actual Process By Alexander Martin Outreach Coordinator, Central Illinois Friends

Last month I finished my HIV test counselor training and can now officially provide STI testing. I myself have been tested before, so I was familiar with some of the process. Now that I provide it and tell clients about it, I know the process well and am able to tell my clients what to expect.

When doing a full STI screening, there are a few steps, but it is quick, easy, and confidential. I wanted to use this space to talk about it because a lot of clients who have not been tested in a while, think that it is always a blood draw and that it will take weeks for their results to come in. However, this is no longer the case, so let’s learn a little bit about what the process looks like.

When you come in for a test, the counselor will ask you a few questions and see why you wanted to come in. Usually, the first test we do is a rapid HIV test. For HIV, we now have rapid tests that get you your results in 15-20 minutes. You no longer have to wait for a very long and agonizing two weeks; you get your results in minutes. There even exists tests right now that can get you your result in 1 minute. The rapid test involves a little poke to the finger. This lets us collect just a small amount of blood. We drop it on the test, add a buffer, and then wait for the results. While that is happening, the counselor will ask you some questions, answer any you have, then move on to the next part.

Once you get your result for the rapid test, the phlebotomist usually comes and does a blood draw. This is like any blood draw or blood work you might have had done at the doctor. We only need one, though, so it is a pretty quick process. With the blood draw we can test for herpes, syphilis, and hepatitis A, B, and C. There is also a rapid test for hep C but only for that one. The blood gets sent to the lab, and you will usually get your results in two to three days, so again, really quickly. After the blood draw, we move on to the final STI test.

The final test consists of a urine sample.The clinician will send you to the restroom to fill a urine specimen cup. This test will check for gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis. This test gets sent to the lab as well, and you will get your results in two to three business days. Depending on your sexual preferences and the types of activities you engage in, you may also want to request a swab test. For gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HPV, they can manifest orally or rectally, so if you think you may have been at risk, request a swab test as well. Swab tests are provided at Planned Parenthood and Peoria City/County Health Department. This is also why it is important to be honest with your test counselor about your activities, as they just want to make sure they are providing you with the best test and what is needed for you personally.

Sexual health is your physical health and should be a part of your regular checkups. Some STI’s that go unchecked can lead to things like infertility or even some of the most common types of cancer and other infections. Many STI’s do not have symptoms that show up immediately either. Some can lay dormant for years without showing any symptoms, so if you are sexually active, getting tested is crucial. And now that you know the process, it does not seem so bad, does it? So get out there and get tested!

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.