Of all the possible days, yes, I got tested for STIs in Zhengzhou on Christmas Day. Being a Jewish person, Christmas has never mattered that much to me. I have definitely enjoyed sharing with significant others and their families, but growing up, it was never important. This being China, Christmas isn’t a holiday where people don’t work. I teach one class on Thursday morning, so I did that as normal and then hopped on a bus to the central hospital of Zhengzhou University. Amy, who I’ve previously written about, took Ben there to get tested several weeks ago. At that time, she forgot to bring her ID card, so she couldn’t get tested. Thus, she came with me.
As a Canadian, the Chinese healthcare system seems strange to me. When you enter the hospital, you have to get a health card and immediately put money on it. Ok, in many countries, you do have to pay, but in China, the thing that gets me is the lack of privacy. I was actually able to use Ben’s health card, which would never be allowed in many places. I didn’t have a health card and forgot to bring my passport, so they told me that using Ben’s card would be fine. First, we put a bit of money on the cards so we’d be able to talk to a doctor. Amy and I went up to see the female doctor and she confirmed that she could test us for everything we wanted. Again, this is a major lack of privacy. The doctor had no idea what sort of relationship Amy and I have; perhaps I was her foreign friend, perhaps I was a complete stranger. Regardless, we both had our vaginas swabbed, similar to the procedure when I get a pap smear, so not real pain to speak of. Afterward, we were given 2 tubes and 2 swabs that had what the doctor had swabbed. We had to bring that to a special window where they test for the STIs. I think it would be much better if those were transported for us. What if Amy and I had mixed up whose was whose? What if someone had something and the other didn’t? I feel that this whole procedure can lead to a lot of mishaps.
Next, we had our blood taken to test for the rest of the STIs, which went fine. One thing I find odd is that after your blood is taken, they give you a Q-Tip which you have to hold yourself until blood stops appearing. In Canada, a cotton ball is taped to our arm to do that job, which I feel is much better. As I write this, the day after getting tested, I have a bit of a scar where the blood was drawn, probably because I kept taking the Q-Tip off to check if the blood had stopped. Thankfully, we didn’t have to transport our blood ourselves to be tested – that was done for us.
Finally, Amy and I went downstairs to pay. It all ended up costing 253 RMB, which for reference, is about $50; not bad. Ben and I had told Amy awhile ago that in Toronto and in Tokyo, where I used to live, you can get tested for STIs for free and anonymously. She asked us, why do they do that? Ben and I told her that there is a public health interest in making sure that everyone is healthy, even with regard to sexual health. In China, it is normal to test for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and syphillis, but not the most common STIs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. Ben and I were tested for the former diseases when we first arrived to make sure we wouldn’t infect the population with any of those horrible things. Thus, it’s not really about health and more about keeping out foreign influence. In the future, I sincerely hope that STI testing will be both more widespread around the country, more comprehensive in terms of what they test for, and less of a hassle.
Two final notes as an aside: Amy and I had lunch after we got tested. She told me that her son now knows that she’s getting divorced, which Ben and I think is great news. She also said that her Beijing beau is coming here next week and they’ll decide what sort of relationship they’re going to have. I don’t think Amy is aware of the fact that Ben and I wouldn’t have sex with her if she’s involved with someone else, as Amy told us that the beau wouldn’t want to share and we don’t want to be her secret. We do wish her the best and think this is the best bet for her.
For the second final note, I’d like to give a special shout-out to all those poly people at this time of the year. For those of you who are celebrating with your family and can’t bring additional significant others with you or can’t talk about who you are, I want to tell you that things will get better over time. As polyamory is discussed more and more widely in this society, I hope it gets accepted by more and more people and that more poly people come out. The older generations may not understand it, but in time, I think most people will come to understand that we can’t control who we love and how many we love.
Happy Holidays to everyone and all of their loves! If you have a question, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org