Initially, I thought that a blog article about getting a dick analysis in Latin America was beneath me.
But, all joking aside, sexual health is a critical issue, and if even one person benefits from advice on how to get an STD test in Latin America this will have been worth my time.
Having travelled extensively around Latin America and having had more than a few…indiscretions, I’m somewhat of an old hand at getting STD tests – I’ve ordered them three times in Mexico alone.
Here’s my latest tale:
About a month ago, I met a girl in a bar. We ended up at a party at her friend’s house – a nice apartment in the affluent area of Polanco. We were dancing and drinking and she was being rather forward. She was 35 years old and I wasn’t particularly attracted to her, so I didn’t bother to escalate much. I was content spending an evening in a nice apartment drinking free liquor and returning home to my warm bed.
5 am rolled around and I announced that I was going to take a cab home. The gal looked rather surprised and asked if I wouldn’t rather stay there with her. I weighed the pros and cons, and my drunken frame of mind decided that she had a rather cogent argument.
I didn’t have a condom, but my drunken logic kicked in again to ease my mind: statistically, older women are less likely to have STDs (my drunk logic didn’t account for the fact that a 35 year old single women had most certainly indulged in an overabundance of cock over the years).
We had sex and I gave myself the Jacob Zuma Treatment right after (if you are not familiar, Google ‘Jacob Zuma Shower AIDS’).
Fast-forward two weeks. My urine is burning. Feels like tiny needles are poking into the tip of my dick when I piss. I try to ignore it; just paranoia I tell myself.
A few days later I wake up to see a whitish-yellowish discharge at the end of my penis. My first thought was ‘fuck, Chlamydia (I had the pleasure of contracting this disease at the ripe age of 19 from a girl in my hometown…that’s when I lost my innocence). Since I knew the symptoms, I immediately went to the doctor’s office.
I told the doctor my symptoms, she glanced down at the ol’ chap, and without batting an eye wrote me a prescription.
“Don’t I need a lab test?” I said, somewhat bewildered at her nonchalance.
“The truth is, it’s not necessary. Just take one of these pills everyday for four days and you’ll be fine.”
The Utter Non-Thoroughness of Doctors in Latin America.
There are a few problems with this doctor’s hasty diagnosis.
First, she didn’t know what I had contracted. Chlamydia mirrors the symptoms of several STDs, including Trichomoniasis, Gonorrhea and a run of the mill UTI, all of which require different treatments.
The second problem is the implication of flippantly handing out prescription drugs. Due to formally lax regulations, Mexico has the highest instance of prescription drug abuse in the world. This means that there is likely some pretty sinister antibiotic resistant bugs kicking around that require quite a creative drug cocktail mix to remedy.
Finally, she prescribed me the wrong dosage. Chlamydia (if this was in fact what I had) typically requires a single, 1-gram dosage of Azithromycin – she told me to take 500 grams once a day for four days (a total of 2 grams). Although the half-life of this drug is long enough that this would probably do the trick as well, it’s the principal behind it. Not to mention, doubling the standard dose could very well have opened me up to new infections as my body tried to deal with the onslaught of chemicals.
Unfortunately, this kind of indifference is all too common in the region – unless you want to pay out the nose for a high quality private clinic (you may actually want to do this depending on the country you're in).
So…What To Do If You Find Yourself Having to Get an STD Test in Latin America?
1) See a doctor – Obvious, I know. A consultation with a GP will run you about $25-$30 USD in Mexico and Colombia, and slightly more in Brazil. You can simply go to any hospital to get this done. If you want to do it on the cheap, some pharmacies have in-house doctors (usually fresh out of medical school) that can write prescriptions and/or order a lab test. This is more common in Mexico. More on lab tests in a moment.
2) DEMAND a lab test – You have to be firm. Or else the doctor will say you are fine and send you on your way, or dismiss you with a prescription that may not work. Do not leave without an order for a STD panel. A lab test will run you about the same as a consultation (for a basic urinary analysis and perhaps a bit of blood), and you can pick up the results within a few days and have them interpreted by the doctor you initially saw (usually for no additional cost). WARNING: IN MANY PARTS OF LATIN AMERICA, URINE TESTS FOR COMMON STDs HAVEN'T QUITE CAUGHT ON, SO YOU MIGHT NEED TO GET A SWAB UP THE END OF YOUR DICK (CULTURE TEST). NOT AS HORRID AS IT SOUNDS, BUT MAY COST YOU A BIT MORE.
3) OR go straight to a lab and order tests – You can also bypass the doctor's visit and go straight to the lab and order STD tests. If your symptoms seem pretty straightforward and nothing to sinister, I'd order a Chlamydia and Gonorrhea test. A good lab will run you about $100 for these tests.
4) Do a follow-up test – God forbid you actually do have something, wait six weeks after taking your prescription and do a follow-up test to make sure these Latin American drugs actually killed your STD. If you do it earlier, you could have a false positive. This will ease your mind and allow you to continue to sow the wild oats carefree (with a condom, of course).
What Happened In My Case?
I was stupid this time. I took the drugs without a lab test because my symptoms were so familiar that I was pretty confident of what I had. The pain and discharge have mostly subsisted, but I’m not at ease because I will never know for sure what I had, or if I still have it. I’ll be returning home for a few weeks in December, so I will get a full panel there to make sure I’m clean. For now, I’m taking a break from sex, to reevaluate my life and to not potentially pass anything on to an innocent and unsuspecting young (or old…) chica.
Wear a raincoat, fellas – you never know when a storm is coming.
*IMPORTANT NOTE* MOST LABS DOWN HERE DON'T USE THE URINE TEST FOR CHLAMYDIA AND GONORRHEA. SO YOU'RE BE TAKING A LONG SWAB DEEP UP THE JAP'S EYE. AND YES, THIS IS EVERY INCH AS PAINFUL AND UNCOMFORTABLE AS IT SOUNDS.