Partner's Supplemental Workshop Lesson: STDs and Testing

STDs and Testing (Partners)

Disclaimer: The information provided in this supplemental lesson is not intended to replace actual medical supervision and/or treatment. It is intended only to assist you in opening the dialogue between you, your partner and your doctor.

STD Testing and Sexually Compulsive Behavior
One of the most devastating consequences of your partner having engaged in sexually compulsive behavior is the potential that they may have compromised their own and your physical health. What complicates this is the reality that most who engage in such behavior also tend to engage in 'magical thinking' in terms of contracting such diseases. That being, 'they likely won't; don't have an STD and so, there is no need to admit the possibility that they may'. The potential for having an STD is a reality that most in recovery choose not to acknowledge — especially if their addiction has yet to be discovered. And even when that addiction is discovered, there is often ongoing deception to protect the extent of the behaviors involved. This, even at the expense of their partner's (and their own) health.

As a partner of someone you have discovered (or suspect) has engaged in potentially dangerous behavior (affairs, promiscuity, prostitution, etc.)...do not wait for confirmation of that behavior before you get yourself checked. There are addicts who are so emotionally immature that they would willingly jeopardize your life to maintain their secrets. They will continue to say that they only had protected sex — when that is not the truth. They will continue to say that there was never any penetration — when that is not the truth. DO NOT gamble on your life. You must protect yourself — even if that is to simply receive an "all's clear" with your health.

For you, the partner...there should be no shame in this testing process. You have done nothing wrong and so, walk in there with your head held high.

But what if it is unlikely that I have an STD?

You may feel that you can skip over this awkward and frightening topic if you do not have any symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease (STD), but in fact, some of the most widespread sexually transmitted diseases can be asymptomatic. That means that you may be infected even if you are not experiencing itching, redness, a fever, blistering, discharge or any other symptoms. The only way to tell whether you have been infected is to be tested.

If you are in a relationship and you know that your partner has engaged in behavior that may have transmitted an infection, you must approach this openly. The goal is to ensure that no infections have spread — not to add guilt/shame to an already difficult situation.

You do not necessarily have to seek help all on your own. You may wish to enlist the support of your family doctor, a counselor or a member of the clergy. It's not usually a good idea to get a friend or family member involved, although it may be tempting. However, the intervention of a professional may be helpful in this situation.

Whether or not you choose to ask for help in having this conversation, this will likely be difficult for you both. A possible script of your initial conversation might run as follows:

”As you know, I am coming to terms with the consequences of your actions. One thing that I need to face is that you may have exposed me to a sexually transmitted disease.  I understand if you don't feel that you can tell me all the details of your behavior right now, but I do know that we both need to get tested and, if necessary, treated. I understand that you may be feeling resistant to this right now but this is something I need to do for my own health.”


If you do not have a current partner, for example if you have separated from your partner who was involved in sexual addiction, you should still be tested for STDs. You may feel that you don't want to know the truth, but many STDs can lead to long-term health problems. By getting tested and (if necessary) treated, you are demonstrating to yourself that you value your own well being.

Getting tested may seem daunting. You may be afraid of what your doctor says, or you may not be able to afford the doctor's visit in the first place. Break this task down into smaller steps. For example:

1) Find clinic phone number in phone book.
2) Make phone call for appointment
3) Look for clinic on map
4) Drive to clinic on day of test.

And note, most cities provide either free testing or testing for nominal fees. And, such testing is completely confidential.

What should you be tested for?

A community member (who reports having an MD), offered the following:
 
"I can't stress enough the importance of std testing. Early and often. What is routine testing in the well patient exam situation is not routine in this situation. Here is my list of what you should be tested for:

Blood tests(serology):
HIV
Hepatitis B and C
Herpes simplex types 1 and 2 (type-specific antibodies)
Syphilis

Direct sampling:
Gonorrhea (GC)
Chlamydia (CT)
Trichomonas
HPV (Human papilloma virus, high risk type)
Pap test


Additional things to know:
GC, CT and HPV can be tested from ThinPrep or SurePath liquid-based Pap testing material. Most labs offer this, but check with your doctor. They can also be obtained by direct swab of the cervix.

GC and CT can also be performed on voided urine by certain methodologies.

Trichomonas can be detected directly in the office, or by lab testing from a vaginal swab.

Some of you may have had the HBV (Hepatitis B Virus) vaccine, and would not need this test. I highly recommend HBV vaccination to everyone.

For men, the only tests that do not apply are HPV, Trichomonas and the Pap test. For obvious reasons urine is the preferred specimen for GC and CT testing.

Most of these infections are clinically silent. Don't base your decision to be tested on the presence of symptoms."

Please note, this is not intended as medical advice but rather, information to take to your medical doctor for further discussion.

Conclusion

It may sound strange, but the ordeal of getting tested for STDs can turn out to be empowering. Take this step as a way of moving forward in your healing and self care. Once you have made the decision to get tested and have followed through, pause for a moment and experience whatever feelings come your way. You may feel both deeply ashamed and embarrassed. Acknowledge those feelings, and recognize that you have done nothing wrong and that by taking responsibility for your health you are looking after yourself and demonstrating self care.

For more information on STDs, you may wish to visit the Center for Disease Control's website at http://www.cdc.gov/std/default.htm

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