Have you ever wondered what actually happens when you get “tested” for a bacterial or viral infection? Does a fancy intern in a white lab coat look through an even fancier microscope to see if you have a very unfancy pathogen? (the answer is almost certainly no, science is way cooler than that).
We hope that Ash (www.meetash.com) can illuminate a little of the mystery behind STI testing here, and do our part to remove the stigma and surrounds testing. Testing is knowledge, and knowledge is freedom. Don’t be that dumbass that thinks ignorance is cool.
There are a few ways in which labs determine your positive or negative results, we’ll start with some of the science behind it, and then talk about what you might expect from each pathogen.
We all have sex in different ways, and we want to make sure we have all the options covered. Whether you do it quietly in a single position with only one partner of the opposite gender (#heteronogamy) or you’re hanging from the ceiling fan in a room full of sexually fluid doms and subs (#ceilingfansex), we have you covered. If you’re in the second category, maybe strap on a helmet, safe sex is more than just condoms and dental dams.
Testing falls under two general categories.
- Looking directly for evidence of the pathogen
- Culture tests use provided samples to help multiply the pathogen directly on a substrate (some growth surface)
- Genetic tests look at the DNA of cells provided in the sample for evidence of a pathogen or for mutations associated with a cancerous growth
2. Looking for your body’s reaction to the pathogen
- Antibody tests use agents that attach to the specific antibodies your body creates to fight off the pathogen. Each pathogen has its own specific surface, so our body has to create specific antibodies to fight the infection.
Science, am I right?! Alright, enough technicalities, let’s look at specific infections and how you can get tested for each, because you’re self-testing, not running the lab.
In addition to how labs test for pathogens, we have to know how exactly we’re going to self-test. This will keep you from putting a rectal swab into your upper nasal cavity, among other possible mishaps. While your test kit will come with detailed directions so you can feel like a self-testing champion, here is a general overview of what to expect.
(Order as follows: Rectal → Vaginal → Urine → Oral)
This is an easy, simple, and not at all awkward self-test. It’s basically like you’re cleaning your ear with a Q-tip, except with the emphasis on sterility, test tube protocol, and self-confidence. Here’s how to feel like you just won the gold medal in the Rectal STI Testing Olympics.
- Wash. Your. Hands. You filthy animal. No but really, a long wash with warm water is essential to remove any possible contaminating microbes on your hands. You’re already fluent in this post-covid.
- Remove the swab from the test tube. Be careful not to touch the tip anywhere before inserting into your anus.
- Use one hand, best your non-dominant hand, to gently push your buttcheek so you can easily (whatever that means in this context) insert the swab.
- Keep about 1.5” between where you hold the swab and the end, and insert until your hand touches your crack.
- Gently (and I mean GENTLY) move the swab in a circular motion against the lining of your rectum a few times. I really do mean gently, you’re not churning butter here.
- Remove the swab and immediately insert it into the test tube, careful not to allow it to touch anything on its way in.
- Wash your hands.
- Put your sample in the appropriate bag, put the label on the box, and you’re good to go.
Putting a cotton swab in your vagina may seem like a junior version of the other things that you could put in there, but will anything else ever tell you if you’re carrying an STI? No, the answer is no, please don’t actually think about that. Here’s how you get a grade A++ vaginal sample.
- Wash those hands. You will never get an accurate sample with that doorknob opening microbial load on your hands.
- Remove the swab from the test tube and be careful not to touch the tip anywhere before inserting into your vagina.
- Hold the swab about 1” from the end, and insert into your vagina until your hand touches you.
- Gently circle the swab for 15 seconds or so with pressure on the walls of the vagina, and until the swab is moist.
- Remove the swab and immediately insert into the test tube, using extra caution not to allow the tip to touch anything.
- Wash your hands.
- Put the test tube into the appropriate bag, and mail the beauty to us.
This is a test you’ve done likely a few times.
- Wash your hands. Please. You know why.
- Pee in the cup, use the provided pipette to collect the sample in the test tube
- Wash your hands.
- Enclose the sample in the appropriate bag, label the box and we’ll test it straight away.
If you ever wanted to feel the soft touch of cotton in the back of your throat, here’s your chance! While it may seem like a no-brainer, technique is of critical importance.
- Wash your hands.
- Using a spoon or a tongue depressor (unless you’re in dentistry, you’ll probably go with the spoon) push down your tongue so it’s out of the way
- Carefully insert the swab into your mouth, being careful not to touch your tongue or the sides of your mouth. Our mouths are a bacterial heaven, so samples can be very easily contaminated with an errant swab-jab
- Lightly swab the back of your throat, and be careful not to gag, that will surely contaminate the sample
- Slowly remove the swab from your mouth, again careful not to touch anything on the way out.
- Put the swab into the test tube, enclose it in the appropriate bag, and send the sample our way.
All of our test kits and products will come with detailed instructions, but we wanted to demystify the testing experience here so you know what to expect and how it’s done!