Posts Tagged ‘STI testing’

Ask Anything: Unprotected oral sex – HIV contraction?

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I was getting oral sex from a sex worker. I am really worry about HIV contraction. Please let me know regarding this issue.

I’ll do my best to answer your question, but I’m missing some details that would let me give you a truly accurate response on the risk level for your situation.

Assuming you’re stressed because you didn’t use a barrier (condom or dental dam) when getting oral sex, I can tell you that the HIV transmission rate during unprotected oral sex is not high. There is a risk of contraction for you, but it’s low. Regarding unprotected oral sex, I would be more concerned with the Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, or Herpes contraction, because the transmission of these STIs can be from a skin-to-skin contact.

The best way to lower your anxiety would be to get tested for these STIs.  Something to have in mind before getting tested is that STIs have what’s called a window period. A window period is the time where an STI is alive in your body, is contagious, but is not yet detectable by a test. For example, Chlamydia’s window period is 3 to 10 days, but HIV’s window period is 3 to 6 months.

This means that if you’ve had sex and are worried about having contracted HIV, you have to wait at less 3 months after the sexual incounter that is worrying you to get an accurate test result. In most cases, the test will be accurate after 3 months, but to be sure, it’s important to get tested after 6 months as well.

You can always get tested for HIV (and other STIs) at the Head & Hands medical clinic on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. In the meantime, I would recommend that you use condoms and/or dental dams to make sure that you and your partners are protected.

ask anything: when can I get tested for STIs?

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Q: I had a possible exposure in August 2010- unprotected receptive anal. Im a female btw. At 5 and 6 1/2 months I got tested for all STI’s. All results were negative. My main concern is HIV. Do I need to test again? P.s. I had no exposure since that night.

Since you got tested twice, and your results were negative both times, I would feel pretty confident in your results. You also got tested after 6 months, which fully covers the window period for HIV (the time frame in which the virus can’t be accurately detected by a test – for HIV it’s 3-6 months). In your case, I would let go of the stress and start enjoying safe sex again.

In general, when you are sexually active, you should get tested for STIs every 6 months even if you use protection – that way, you cover all the window periods of the different tests. People sometimes choose to get tested every year, or even less often, if they have one partner and they’ve agreed on a monogamous relationship. In your case, it sounds like you’ve got your bases covered for that one situation, and you could consider getting tested regularly (e.g. every 6 months to a year) in the future. You can also stock up on free condoms and lube at Head & Hands (and most other clinics), to further protect your health!

Ask anything: Getting tested for HIV

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This week’s Ask Anything column is answered by Liam, a fantastic Sense animator who facilitates our workshops in schools! As I mentioned before, Sense now has a formspring account where you can ask us anything – any of your awkward, out-there or just plain practical questions about sex. You can ask your questions anonymously at any time in the box to the right –> and we’ll post the answers here on the blog!

Q: i see you guys are doing HIV testing, can you get tested even if you had unprotected sex a week ago, will it show up on the test?

Great question! The answer is a resounding no. A lot of STIs have what’s called a ‘window period’. A window period is the time where an STI is alive in your body, is totally contagious, but is still undetectable by a test. Chlamydia’s window period is 3 to 10 days, but HIV’s window period is 3 to 6 months. This means that if you’ve had sex and are worried about having contracted HIV, you have to wait 3 to 6 months to get accurate test results (in most cases, the test will be accurate after 3 months but to be sure, it’s important to get tested after 6 months as well). The window period is really important because it means that HIV can be transmitted for a full 6 months before you can even know whether or not it’s in your body. When a doctor tests for HIV, they are actually testing for the antibodies that your body will produce to fight HIV. Even during window periods, condoms are a very effective way to protect yourself and your partners from HIV.

Because HIV has the longest window period out of all the STIs, it’s a good idea to use it as a marker for how often you can effectively get tested for STIs. For a person who is sexually active and has either multiple partners or at least one partner who has multiple partners, think about getting tested every 6 months. For everybody else, think about getting tested 6 months after each new sexual partner.

Some people choose to get tested for HIV even if it’s earlier than the three months’ window period, because they want to reduce their immediate anxiety. This is okay, but you will just have to remember that the test reflects where your health was at three months ago, and that you’ll need to get re-tested for a truly accurate result. You can always get tested for HIV at the Head & Hands medical clinic on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, or watch the website for news of upcoming special HIV testing clinics, like the one coming up on March 31st.

Hope this helps!