Do you practice having safer sex? I am pro-choice but I have never had abortion. I have always chosen to have safer sex. Yet, I've had people with unwanted children judge me for having periods in my adult life where I have chosen to have more than one intimate partner. I can't help but think, wait, you have a child you didn't plan. That means, in many cases, that you had unprotected sex. Don't judge me! It boggles my brain how many women I hear say, "Well, he's my man so we don't use protection... or Oh, We've been dating/known each other xyz amount of time." Last I checked, the number of years we've known someone has no bearing on HIV/AIDS status. I could be wrong but I don't believe it to be an indicator of the status of any other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) either.
I prefer know. I prefer know for sure. Therefore, in addition to barrier methods, knowing the status of my partner is a huge part of practicing safer sex. When we initially meet someone there are numerous bits and pieces of new information about them that we learn. We know little about them so learning a great deal of new information is par for the course. There are also an intense collection of "feelings" (also know as endorphins) that are released when we first fall for someone. So many of us mistake these "feelings" for love. It is not love. It is chemical. Love is an action verb not a feeling (but that's an entire other blog post). Love would lead to the action of protecting oneself and one's partner. I refuse to be led by chemicals. I must have cold hard facts. I actually have a rule of not sleeping with someone until I see paperwork of HIV/AIDS status. I often suggest going to get tested together.
This practice does wonders for sobering the effects of the chemical "feelings". I've experienced many reactions that have blown me away. I had people get upset with me for wanting them to get tested. Did I think they were dirty? I had people accuse Me of having an STI. That MUST be why I wanted us to be tested before having sex. I had one person bluntly tell me they just did NOT want to know. This person had been trying to convince me to have unprotected sex with them just only moments before.
Do you trust this new sexual partner with your life? Remember that the accuracy of testing also depends on honesty. When was the last time your new partner had unprotected sex? It can take 3-6 months for HIV to show up in an infected person. Different STIs have different rates of when they show up in tests. We no longer only have unwanted pregnancy or STIs that can be healed with antibiotics as potentialities to manage. Sex and so many topics around sexuality have been so stigmatized in our world, that people rather forego the awkwardness that they project will arise from bringing up safer sex or knowing a partner's status. It also prevents people from wanting to disclose if they even have an STI for fear of being stigmatized. Some people say it will kill the mood. Better the mood killed than you killed, I say. Besides, these conversations are better had way before the mood is in full effect, right? While living with STIs and even HIV/AIDS has come a long way, I vote that avoiding transmission is still the best way to go. In fact, because some people may not see living with HIV/AIDS as a death sentence anymore, we must protect ourselves even more.
There is freedom in knowing the status of one's partner and vice-versa. Partners can become closer and sex can become hotter with this knowledge. While many people who I told about my "test before sex" rule balked at the idea, most admitted to feeling relief and having an added respect for me because of my demand to know for sure. I won't put the HIV/AIDS/STI stats in this post. Get thee to Google to see stats and numbers galore. What I will tell you is that it is sexy and speaks to our high level of self-love to demand a test and at the very least the consistent use of safer sex methods. Let's start a trend where is it not at all awkward to have these discussions and take these actions.
Here in NY you can get tested for free! Here is a link for National HIV and STI testing resources. Here is one more link to an organization called Test Together. Here's to getting some and being safer about it ;-)