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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

In nearly every college student's life comes a rite of passage. There is nothing super sweet about this particular passage, which might cause your stomach to sink faster than if you had overslept through a microeconomics final. I'm talking about STD testing here, you wild scoundrels.

Getting tested is a vital component to a healthy and responsible sex life. I won't call it a pleasant experience; that would be a blatant lie. It can be an intimidating experience that (probably) climaxes with a rush of relief.

Months ago, I was shamelessly guilt-tripped by a friend into visiting the Alachua County Health Department. She wanted some much-needed reassurance that her female parts were clean, so I was dragged to the clinic - kicking, screaming and pouting ­- in order to provide moral support and get myself checked as well.

Walking up to the doors of the clinic was like two sinners approaching the pearly gates of heaven. You glance around and pray that your friend, sister or last night's hookup is not within a 4-mile-radius. Whew, no one.

After entering the lobby and whispering your name to the receptionist in an attempt to not be overheard, you wait for the doctor. Nervously, you reach for your phone, flipping through text messages and contacts. You realize that you've hooked up with roughly 20 percent of those contacts, and your phone contains more than 200 numbers. Before you can say, "I'm screwed," the doctor calls you in.

The doctor smiles as if it's Sunday Funday, and he or she asks a list of rather personal questions. It begins with "how many sexual partners have you had in the last six months?" You shyly reply, "well, what do you consider sex?" and the halo above your head pops. Suddenly, you know what you did last summer in explicit detail. Oral? Obviously. Intercourse? Probably. Same-sex relations? Maybe. Any of it unprotected? Oh crap.

After a prick of the finger, you await results for the 20-minute HIV test (liquid-in-a-cup results for other STDs take a few weeks). You make a solemn oath of celibacy, even though next time a condom and less-ravenous libido would simply suffice. The results are presented. Most likely you're handed a paper with the word "negative," which is a positive thing.

Rewarded, you receive the college student's answer to trick-or-treating: a goodie bag of more condoms and lubricant than you know what to do with. You high-five the doctor and show yourself out.

But if you do have something in need of "cleaning up," it's best to take care of that and not allow the disease to spread. The health department and Planned Parenthood both test for STDs (you can even arrange free HIV testing) and will provide peace of mind without judgment. There's nothing wrong with gettin' a lil' of that.

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