Editorial Letter: If You’ve Ever Had Sex, You Should Probably Get Tested

Hey readers,

Freshers is over. Whether you went out every night or didn’t go out at all, I hope you had a wonderful time. 

I was a little bit stuck this time around on what to write for this week’s editorial letter. Varsity is coming up but I’m hardly the world’s greatest expert on anything sport, especially rugby. 

So, what am I an expert on? Tough question but one thing you could argue I feel I have some authoritative experience on is being a hoe, and specifically how to hoe safely. It’s official. My little sister once thought my virginity was still intact but shockingly that is not the case. 

I get it. Leeds is your first time properly away from home. You went to Fruity and like every straight person in the pit in Stylus, you ended up making out with a random stranger once it turned 3 in the morning. If you’re one of the gays, it was probably Viaduct, Tunnel or Wharf. Your new friends might even have cheered you on and you took them home afterwards and had a great old time. 

Now you might have not taken every precaution. The condom breaks, you got caught up in the heat of the moment or just couldn’t be bothered. It happens. 47% of 18-24 year olds don’t use contraception the first time they have sex with someone so you’re not alone. 

Sadly unlike yourselves, sexually transmitted diseases or STDs for short don’t play around. Luckily there are some great sexual health services in Leeds and Leeds Sexual Health will become your new best friend. If you need emergency contraceptives, you can get them from this clinic situated in the Merrion Centre. They also offer a full sexual health screenings – blood test, urine test and a couple of swabs and you’re good to go. 

Now I know no one wants to talk about this side of the bedroom discussion. It’s much more fun to make a tally or know what questions will rat out your housemates during a game of Never Have I Ever. It’s less fun to deal with the icky stuff.

However, the longer STDs stick around, the harder they are to get rid of. They don’t give a shit about social stigma. While it’s nice not having to worry about getting pregnant/ someone pregnant when you’re gay, we’re not completely off the hook either. It’s easier to catch a whole host of STDs when you have anal sex (this applies to experimental heterosexuals too). That’s why it’s crucial to get tested. 

I don’t know how many times I’ve been to a sexual health clinic but I know it’s been fairly regular. If you’ve been adding names to your list recently, you probably should make it a regular thing too. 6 in ten chlamydia diagnoses are with those who are under 25. That number is pretty high. STDs don’t always let you know that they’re there either (how rude). 70% and 50% of positive women and men respectively exhibited no symptoms. 25% of HIV+ people globally don’t know their status. The one and only time I’ve caught something, gonorrhoea, it came as a surprise as all I felt was a mild sore throat. 

Now don’t panic. If you’re feeling a bit ill after your one-night stand, that doesn’t mean you’ve got something. It also doesn’t matter whether you slept with 15 people (fair play) or one person. However if you didn’t sleep with anyone this Freshers, you’re probably fine

Most of my straight friends have never been tested and I always tell them they should. There’s something about sexual health testing that turns people off and makes them feel awkward. I’m sure all of them have been to their doctors’ surgery at least once this year. 

There’s no shame in knowing your status. Like the text telling you that your student loan will be in the bank in three days, you get a little text after you’ve been tested usually giving you the all-clear. If you’re not all clear, then it’s usually a shot in the bum or a course of antibiotics. Then after a sex ban of a week or two, you’re back at things again.

The Merrion Centre clinic offers walk-ins on Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 8am. You can also get a free testing kit sent to your door like your Dominos order. These aren’t as thorough though as one done at the clinic. You can also book an appointment by calling 0113 392 0333. They have a Men’s Night on a Tuesday from 5:15 too. 

If you think you’re showing symptoms, need emergency contraception or run out of it and need emergency HIV medication, there is a walk-in service on Saturdays and guys, you can get vaccinated for HPV now. If that hasn’t enticed you, then maybe hundreds of free condoms will. Free contraception is also available in LUU.

If you’re a man who has sex with men, you can buy PrEP that prevents you from getting HIV if you take it properly. IwantPrEPnow.com is a good source of info about the best stuff. PrEP’s sadly not cheap, especially when you’re a student, but there are groups like Youth Stop AIDS campaigning to get this available on NHS England. A PrEP trial currently happening in England too and PrEP is finally available on the NHS Scotland, Northern Ireland. 

If we don’t get tested, we only make things worse for ourselves. This year, STI rates have increased by 5% so this is serious stuff. STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhoea can cause infertility if left untreated as well as other complications. 

As the threats made against Gareth Thomas by a tabloid newspaper before he publicly announced he is HIV-positive show, we need to do much more to combat the misinformation and ignorance that we have surrounding STIs. It’s imperative that we do. Most of us will have sex at least once while at Uni with 51% of students having at least one one-night-stand and some of us have had plenty more than that. 

No one is ever going to stop having sex. So get tested and stop ruining the fun for the rest of us.