Some background: The LetsGetChecked personal health testing service allows you to collect your sample from home without the need to visit a clinic. Results are delivered online to a password-protected online account. Should you test positive, full nursing support is provided for those in need of treatment.
In case you need a reminder, here’s how I got on:
But look: not everyone is
as smart as me the same – and, by that token, not everyone will have the same experience with their at-home STI testing kit from LetsGetChecked. So I roped in three (formerly*) close friends to try out their very own Simple 2 kits, and to give me their verdicts. Starting with…
Cáit, 31, is a straight woman who’s been in a relationship for six months. She likes long walks on the beach, flying kites and playing the piano. She’s slept with “fewer than 10 men”, and has had unprotected sex “once – promise!”
“I’m pretty sure I’ve been tested once before, but I couldn’t swear to it – I think I got one with my last smear, maybe two years ago.**
“I’m always very, very safe. I’ve only had unprotected sex once, with my ex – we went out for seven years, and he had been checked, about two years into our relationship, so I wasn’t worried. I was on the Pill, but we only had sex without a condom once – I was really paranoid about getting pregnant and, to be honest, I don’t mind using condoms. It doesn’t seem like a big issue.
“I know it’s not a 100% certainty that I wouldn’t have an STI or an STD, but it’s highly unlikely. I mean, maybe from oral sex… But I’m just always so safe.
“I found the test really straightforward – and the visuals were really helpful. It was all laid out, step by step, so it was hard to go wrong. My only issue was that I overfilled the test tube [with my urine sample]… I had to pour some out, and then I worried that I’d messed things up, because there was already liquid in the bottom.
“It’s really handy to be able to do it for yourself, not to go to the doctor, queue up, get time off work. I mean, I guess now that I’ve taken the Simple 2, it has got me thinking… That’s not the full spectrum. What’s the point in checking for two? [Note: the Simple 2 is designed, simply, to test for chlamydia and gonorrhea because they’re the most commonly sexually transmitted infections in men and women, and often go unnoticed. Chlamydia is symptomless in up to 80% of women, and can lead to infertility, so it’s really important to get checked.]
“It would be ideal for the person who gets that call from their ex, to say, ‘hey, sorry, but I have chlamydia.’ Then you could go and just get tested for that, without a huge cost or spending all that time at your GP… And then you’d have peace of mind, either way.”
David, 32, is gay, and isn’t quite sure how many men he’s slept with – “maybe hundreds! Definitely a lot.” He says he tries – “I mean, I really try!” – to have safe sex all of the time, but has had the occasional slip. Which is why, he says, “it’s so important to get checked. Why wouldn’t you prioritise your health?”
“I’ve had, in total, about 13 STI tests – I’d usually go three times a year, but I’ve had a few scares recently so I’ve ended up going for a few more.
“I remember my first one – in the AIDS Alliance just off Parnell St. I wasn’t nervous about the test itself, but I was nervous that I’d have an STD or, in particular, HIV. I think anyone going for their first test is fearing the worst.
“My LetsGetChecked test was fine – really straightforward. I can see the convenience of it… For a gay man, who can go to the free clinic, time is the main advantage. You can pick it up in the chemist, do it at home and pop it in the post. You can save yourself several hours!
“As well, you know, this would suit someone who’s terrified of going to the clinic. I’ve met some guys who are so embarrassed! Obviously you take that anxiety away by taking things into your own hands.
“That being said, I would recommend any gay men to take the Complete 12 test [which tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniaisis, gardnerella, mycolplasma, ureaplasma, Herpes Simplex 1, Herpes Simplex 2, HIV, syphilis, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C]. Sure, the Simple 2 tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea, which are the most common STIs, but why wouldn’t you want to do the full test? I would want to know everything’s okay.
“The biggest surprise for me was how quickly I got my results – I posted it in the morning, and by the next evening, my results were up online. That was amazing. Even when I’ve gone in, in a panic, and asked for a rushed test, and they’ve done their best to help me in the clinics, it’s been a week’s wait – so that would be a huge plus for me.”
Lena, 30, is a nurse who has slept with “between 15 and 20 people”. She’s had chlamydia twice, and is HPV positive. She’s had “six or seven STI tests.”
“I’ve had chlamydia twice – both from ex boyfriends, and never from a one-night stand, which is a bit tragic! And I’m HPV positive. They say that 80% of people will be HPV positive at some point in their lives. Condoms don’t protect against it; the only reason I even know I have it is because I’ve had abnormal cells during a smear, so I have to get rechecked every six months.
“I would say I’m careful 80% of the time – there’s definitely been a bit of irresponsibility at times, but never on a one-night stand or anything like that. Maybe with someone I’ve been seeing casually, it might be in there for a second…
“Any time I had unprotected sex with someone, I would have gone and had an STI test. Throughout my twenties, I had six or seven. I was always annoyed with myself afterwards. When I was in college, it was free to go into the health centre, so there was no excuse.
“The two incidents I had chlamydia, I was in relationships and we stupidly had unprotected sex early on, and then said, oh, I guess we’d better go and get checked. Both of us were positive; I think they’d given it to me, as I’d been clear before that, but I don’t know. I was never symptomatic – I took antibiotics and it cleared up.
“I wouldn’t feel embarrassed going into a clinic, but I liked the convenience of the LetsGetChecked test. You have to take time out of your day, book in somewhere…
“From an affordability point of view, I work full-time, so it wouldn’t be a huge issue for me. And, I suppose, you’re paying for the convenience, and quick results – I got mine back within 48 hours.
“I also think it would be great for women who are trying to get pregnant; you want to get a full STI test beforehand, and it’s not always something that your GP or fertility clinic will bring up. So there’s an added dimension of convenience.
“It’s nice, you know, that you get to pee into your own little box. It’s much more dignified than having your legs in stirrups!” letsgetchecked.com
* I kid, I kid! They still love me. Mostly.
**Point to note: once you’re over 25, Cervical Check will allow you to get a free smear test every three years. Check out when your next smear is due here. A smear test does not include a full STI screening; your GP may provide this service, but it will incur an extra cost.