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Everything’s fine!: Testing & the Sexual Invincibility Fallacy

Updated: Mar 20

People like sex. They like talking about it, thinking about it, having it or planning to have it. Honestly, a lot of our adult lives revolve in some way shape or form around the process of sexual activity. Recently, in discussing this importance with some friends, a certain question came up around the topic, something more serious than the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ of explicit and juicy sexual details or plans; testing. A lot of people just don’t get tested. And I began to wonder why. Based on the responses I was getting from my peers there was a noted reluctance to get tested or screened for STD’s and STI’s. Most of them, regardless of whether they were having unprotected sex or not, were fine with not knowing their status for months or even years, seeing it as a hassle or something not necessary. This attitude isn’t as rare as one might hope. We don’t really talk about testing in conversations with possible future partners. Testing isn’t as sexy as giggling about lurid details and plans for future conquests. There’s a certain dark aura around the word, it kills the mood, and the vibe, why bring it up? In talking to my peers I realized that many people, especially younger people, don’t really consider their reproductive health, there’s an invincibility cloak that comes with a woefully poor level of education when it comes to STDs, STIs and general sexual health.

One of the main hindrances is stigma. People are terrified of being sick. Sickness flies directly in the face of the invincibility that comes with the fun of having sex. Often when you ask persons if they’ve been tested, the air around the word denotes a kind of prejudice or scorn, ‘why are you asking me that, do you think I’m sick?’. The idea around testing is that you only do it if you ‘suspect’ you might have something, not as a routine health procedure. People also lack knowledge about the signs and symptoms (or lack thereof) of sexual illnesses. Many STIs, like chlamydia, or herpes more often than not show almost no symptoms, leaving many of the infected with a false sense of security. A peer of mine shared that they went in for their regularly scheduled test, not thinking there was anything to worry about, considering they were only engaging in oral sex at the time and had no symptoms.

When they found out they had the proverbial ‘clap’ they were confused, not knowing that STIs like chlamydia could be transmitted orally as well as through genital contact. Thankfully they were already in the practice of getting tested and were able to access the resources in their neighbourhood to receive treatment easily, however, their story got me thinking about how many other people, who have no physiological symptoms, were walking around unknowingly transmitting infections due to ignorance and an aversion to testing. Many STIs though they may not show physical symptoms have serious reproductive and general health consequences later on, and the details of these are often not known by the average person. Many people have an ‘it’ll go away on its own’ mentality with respect to their reproductive health issues. Burning, itching, oozing and inflammation are touchy subjects to talk about and people often hide their problems or put off going to professionals for treatment because of shame or fear.

There is also a culture, within the region, of a certain lack of sexual responsibility. It’s not encouraged to talk about sex openly and freely, it’s more of a hushed, innuendo-saturated topic, which makes open and frank discussions about sex and sexually transmitted diseases and infections even more difficult. We don’t feel responsible for others and ourselves, the seriousness of sex is often discounted, and it’s all about individual satisfaction at the risk of communal safety.

We have a right to reproductive healthcare and a right to value and treat our bodies with the care and respect they deserve, and I don’t believe that people are just belligerently ignorant, with their views of sexual invincibility. When I ask why so many of them never bothered getting tested, aside from just the assumption that they ‘don’t have anything’, many of my peers often cited expense and the general hassle of finding out where testing was available to be the major factor preventing them from regular testing. Sure, there are pop-up health events ‘and random here-and-there notices, but generally speaking, people never have a clear answer when you ask them if they know how and where to get tested.

“Uhh the clinic?”

“The hospital?”

“ I thought you could do it by the doctor?”

And people don’t know so they don’t go.

There needs to be a cultural shift with respect to sex and bodily autonomy and responsibility in order for sexual health to be taken seriously. Testing shouldn’t be daunting and shrouded in mystery and shame. The first and most important step is comprehensive and relentless education on the topic of sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR). There needs to be an openness around sex that is encouraged and accommodated within the public health sphere. Access to resources, testing and treatment should also be easily available and the public should be reminded of where they can access these resources if need be. And lastly, we owe it to ourselves to be braver, more open and more responsible when it comes to sexual and reproductive health.

Below are some resources regarding the locations of testing facilities courtesy of Feminitt Caribbean:

Queen’s Park Counselling Centre & Clinic - located at Charlotte Street, Port of Spain, next to the Port of Spain General Maternity Ward entrance.

  • Rapid blood testing for HIV at no cost

  • Treatment for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

  • Referrals for further treatment and/or care for HIV and other STIs

  • Free Contraceptives - Male Condoms

Contact - Website: || Tel: 625-3944, 625-2556 ||@minhealthtt

Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago - located at 141 - 144 Henry Street, Port of Spain and 6A Lord Street, San Fernando,

  • Rapid blood testing for HIV, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis at $100.00 TTD per test

  • Referrals for further treatment and/or care for HIV and other STIs

  • Free Contraceptives - Male & Female Condoms

Contact - Website - Contact -POS - 623-4764 / 627-6723 / 627-1760 || Sando 778-5542 || IG @fpa_tt

ISVEAGH Health Clinic - located at 6 Morton Street, Tunapuna

  • Full STI Panel available ranging from $1100.00 TTD to $1650.00 TTD

  • Individual tests are also available

Contact - Email - || Tel. 720-4844 || IG - @iveaghhealth

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May 08, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Thank you for the discussion and the resources!

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