PQ 20.1 — Do I know my current STI status and that of all my partners?
Yes! And I know the status of my metamours.
I also know which relationships use protection and which don’t. And a reasonable snapshot of what new sexual contact might come over the horizon. That is to say, I know the general dating and sexual habits of everyone I’m dating as well as everyone they’re dating. And yeah, in a few cases, I know all of that same information for everyone my metamours are dating.
I find the knowledge of general habits and practices to be extra helpful. Because current STI status is really important but far from the whole picture. It’s a snapshot, something that tells you how things are currently, but not something that necessarily prepares you to make accurate predictions (the standard I try to go for since time is always moving forward).
In essence, when I’m assessing STI risk, I am mentally building sexual health personalities for everyone in close proximity to me, so I’ll not only understand where they were 6 months ago (the real indicator of most STI panels for risk factors like HIV which can be undetected for some time), but I’ll have a good sense of where they’ll be 6 months from now.
Part of how this works is that everyone is regularly tested. But another big part — and in some respects an even bigger part — is we make it easy to tell the truth to one another. If someone ever tests positive for something or has risky sex with someone whose status is unknown, it’s important not to shun them or flip out or anything but to be compassionate and problem-solve.
Does this mean that you’re necessarily going to continue to have sex with any given person, or to people connected with that person? No, not necessarily (at least not without protection for 6 months and a confirmatory test). But you might. It really all depends.
Everyone gets to decide what level of risk they’re comfortable with and if that risk is worth it. It’s a bit like choosing not to date a smoker because of secondhand smoke cancer or asthmatic concerns. Or choosing not to ride with someone whose driving scares you (fun fact: driving is more dangerous than unprotected sex, but studies show people consistently don’t know that). You’re not saying they’re a bad person. It’s just a personal preference whether or not it’s a dealbreaker.
Anyway, I’ve found that when people flip out about slipups or positive test results that it only incentivizes people to hide their status. Which makes everyone less safe.
So I do my best to be practical and level-headed about these things so that everyone feels comfortable sharing if they ever have difficult news.