Testing at bi events (Monday, February 6th, 2012)

Making STI testing easier is a Good Thing, but there are some things to think about before having it as a feature of BiCon, for example.

In no particular order..

Costs: time and money. Let's say we're a responsible bunch and half of us want to be tested. That's around 100-200 people, and that's likely to be a significant chunk of someone's budget. Would it mean a hundred fewer local residents get access to testing? Is there really that much spare capacity?

It would also take quite a while and/or a significant number of someone's staff to do that sort of number. Memory is telling me that when THT in London do one hour HIV testing at their centres, they limit it to about a dozen people per afternoon/evening.

What tests? Not just what STIs to test for, but which tests to use. HIV would presumably be in the list, even if it is a list of one. The easiest tests to administer are not enormously accurate – better tests need more than a pinprick of blood or a saliva wipe. If the easiest ones are used, then there's going to be '.. and you need to visit somewhere closer to home for another test' said a lot.

Chlamydia and some of the other 'pee test' ones would be good.

Where's it going to happen? The space available (and the cost of that) varies between 'lots and free' and 'not much and not cheap' between venues. In any case, a space may be findable but wherever it is onsite, there are going to be..

Confidentiality issues: Unlike most other testing venues, so many people at BiCon know each other, so confidentiality is much harder.

How do you stop people seeing who's going for testing and who isn't? If there's one hour or similar testing available, people are also likely to be under some pressure to reveal the results to at least some people.

If there is support for people with positive (i.e. they have something) results – and if not, WTF not? – then it will be seen as trivial to see who's got something. Say it's one hour HIV testing. If they go back for a result and are out again in a couple of minutes, then they 'must' be HIV-. If they're there much longer, then they 'must' be HIV+.

Who gets the population data? There's someone who – if I interpret them correctly – wants testing done at BiCon because they want to show that bisexuals are less likely to have various STIs than gay men. I'm very dubious about that, both in terms of our representation of the wider bisexual population and what would be done with results that could be presented as saying that, for example, yes, fewer bisexuals do have HIV and so there's less need for health promotion to us compared to gay men. If someone does this testing, the results are going to be reported to someone and we absolutely need some editorial control.

So, if it is to be done, it needs to be done properly, but that's not going to be easy.

You could, for example, hand some of the pee tests out and let people do them privately (they're 'pregnancy test simple' to do – oh, I'd love to see a pile of pregnancy test kits for people to take: in bulk they cost pennies). There are issues with that ('Hello darling, pee on this for me…') too though.

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