You know when a one-night-stand who’s left town for good calls you, it’s not going to be a good morning. That was exactly what I was thinking when a man I had spent a lovely night with called me on my way to work, effectively turning an already grey London morning even greyer. After exchanging pleasantries (it’s England after all), he told me he had tested positive for an STI and I should get checked out. I was terrified. I had never had an STI before. I didn’t have any symptoms so I should be fine right? I tried to convince myself that maybe the infection had skipped me, my immune system was stronger than his and I always used condoms but there was that nagging feeling that maybe I was wrong. I needed to be sure. I called my GP and was told that I could only get an appointment by booking a week in advance.
A whole week!
Now that I had made up my mind, I couldn’t wait that long. A friend informed me that I could go to a men’s sexual health clinic. I was surprised to find out that the care was free. It’s a testament to how much effort the government has put into LGBT healthcare that such a clinic exists and it’s free. Compare with Nigeria where few or no clinics exists for LGBT and they may not receive antiretroviral drugs if they disclose their sexual orientation. I got tested, received a painful injection and was told to come back in a few days for the test results. When I got there for the second visit, I was told I had a gonorrheal throat infection. I didn’t take it well. I swore I’d never have sex again. After the counsellor recovered from a prolonged fit of the giggles, we talked and I calmed down somewhat. He also told me these infections were common and that healthcare centres had recorded rising rates of STIs among gay men and I needed to be careful. If condoms wouldn’t save me, maybe it was time to consider saving myself for marriage (this thought lasted all of 45 seconds before it was extinguished).
Then came the task of calling everyone I had been with to tell them to get tested as well. While I was advised by a friend that I didn’t need to, after all we are all responsible for our own health, I remembered that I had gotten checked out because someone did the right thing and called me. Not everyone was pleased to hear from me and understandably so. I was called a whore, a slag, and a few other choice names but at least my conscience was clear. I called my one-night-only acquaintance to thank him for calling me.