To be completely honest, I was on the fence about writing this post, because it’s super personal. BUT that which is personal can offer guidance to others, right? I’ll be the first to say it: talking about sexual health in the States is still taboo for most. More importantly, we all know that not talking about something doesn’t make it go away, especially when it’s something that can affect every single one of us (abroad or not).
To add to the USA’s cruddy sex-ed culture, 45 is even executing a plan that’ll strip funds from Planned Parenthood. Just effin’ great. What do we do when a country neglects to discuss basic health concerns? We create safe spaces online to offer advice, resources, and experiences! So, whether for a general check-up while on the road or because some $h!t happened while you were traveling, here’s a quick guide (in English) to getting tested in Lima, Perú.
FIRST THING’S FIRST – WHERE TO GET TESTED IN LIMA?
It took me 2-3 hours to look for a clinic in Lima. Mind you, most of the resources online are in Spanish, so I had to navigate places, services, locations, etc. So to make your lives easier, here are the top three clinics I found!
Epicentro Centro Salud (Jr. Jaén 250A, Barranco 15063):
A clinic in Barranco for the LGBTQ+ community of Perú. They specialize in all sorts of affordable tests from blood to urine – whatever you need!
AFH Peru (Av. Arequipa 3410, Lima 15046):
A clinic focused on HIV/AID testing and treatment.
Víalibre (478, Paraguay, Cercado de Lima):
A general sexual health clinic.
There are plenty of other places that provide these services, but these are the ones that I’ve come across in my research.
OKAY, NOW THE ENTERTAINING STUFF – MY EXPERIENCE:
By the time I arrived in Lima, I was 5 days short of reaching my 5-month anniversary of non-stop travel outside of the States. Although I was beyond excited about finally getting to Perú and drinking pisco sours, I noticed that my body started to do things that it normally doesn’t do. Being the hypochondriac that I am, I ran to the Epicentro Centro Salud to get tested. Okay, maybe I didn’t run, but I briskly walked.
Based off of what their Facebook page says, I assumed they’d open at 11 am.
So, I explored the city a bit and came back around 1 pm… still closed.
Word of advice – always call before you go.
At this point, I already knew that the universe wanted me to be miserable. I went home and took a nap, ‘cuz this humidity in Lima during the summer is exhausting. After a refreshing nap and a $2 Uber ride (thank goodness for cheap Ubers in Lima), I arrived at the clinic. THEY WERE OPEN! Phew. I confidently walked in, despite feeling dumb for coming three times in one day.
“Hola, me gustaría hacer una prueba,” then I just looked down “there.” The receptionist knew exactly what I meant by my quick gesture toward the wee-wee area. He smiled and responded, “Señor, el problema es que no tenemos luz.”
OH REALLY? So, I came to the clinic three times in one day, and the lights weren’t working? Cute…
Well, I guess the no lights part was fine – I was just annoyed about going back and forth. Anyway, I explored the neighborhood a bit until they messaged me on FB messenger to let me know that the light had come back on.
Question: do we reach a new level of language proficiency when you and the clinic’s receptionist are chatting on FB messenger in Spanish? I think so…
Naturally nervous about doing an exam in a new country in another language, I awkwardly smiled at the receptionist as he kindly offered me a few different test packages. Some of the solo tests started at around 25 soles (7.55 USD). The complete test that I did (GO BIG OR GO HOME, RIGHT?) started around 75 soles (23 USD). Look, I can barely fill a prescription in the USA with $23, so I was not complaining about the price.
The G.B.O.G.H (Go Big or Go Home) evaluation pack included:
HIV, Syphilis, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, a urine test, and a medical consultation (all for under 30 USD).
The nurse brought me to a tiny room. He began to sanitize the skin above my veins and extract my blood as Game of Thrones was playing on his laptop in the background. I can officially say that I saw my first episode of this show in a clinic in Lima. That day was all sorts of revolutionary for me.
After a few vials of blood, a urine test, and a few swabs, I was asked to wait in the common area for 45 minutes or so. My phone battery was dying, but luckily Caso Cerrado was on the big screen. Wow, this clinic really wasn’t playing when it came to their entertainment.
After what felt like ages – well, really long minutes, my test results were in. A doctor invited me to his office to go over my results with me. Mind you, every single interaction at this clinic so far was in Spanish, so I hoped that my language skills wouldn’t begin to fail me. The doctor began to speak, and I squinted my eyes as if my eyes could hear.
Mind you, every single interaction at this clinic so far was in Spanish, so I hoped that my language skills wouldn’t begin to fail me.
Before the doctor could say anything of importance, I paused for a moment. Being the diva that I am, I began to mentally write my own will even though there aren’t too many zeros in my bank account, write thank you letters to all of my friends and family, and defer my student loans ‘cuz why would I pay those if I don’t have to?
He interrupted my pensive state and began to go down the list of results: non-reactive, non-reactive, non-reactive, non-reactive.
I quickly screamed, “¡Ay, qué bueno!”
He responded (in Spanish), “Everything looks fine, BUT I did notice a heightened pH level in your urine, which isn’t normal.”
“Oh, F!!!CK,” I thought.
“It’s okay – it’s nothing a few pills can’t cure,” he ensured. My natural reaction was to do one of those insincere half-smiles… you know, the ones you do when your sense of joy is slightly overshadowed by confusion.
He quickly prescribed me three tablets that could be bought on-site for 10 soles (3 USD) and told me to drink more water. Wait… did he indirectly tell me that I’m crusty and dehydrated? Who knows!
Alright – I’m partially joking, but this experience did help me to reflect on a few things:
DON’T BE AFRAID TO GO TO FACILITIES ABROAD
In my experience, they’ve been super quick and extremely affordable. In the U.S.A (at least), we’ve been brainwashed to believe that any medical treatment outside of our country is not up-to-par… this just ain’t true. There are millions of human beings who are living healthy lives outside of the U.S.A.
Ain’t nobody got time for a superiority complex.
BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF AND LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Regardless of what it may be, if you’re not feeling on top of the world like you usually do, don’t be afraid to go get checked out.
BE SUPER SUPER SUPER CAREFUL WHEN HOOKING UP
This is a given, but we all need a reminder (clearly I did). The doctor was rather surprised when I told him that most of my sexual interactions didn’t include penetration. T.M.I. – but nothing is off limits. That said, we tend to view “sex” as penetration, and it often makes us forget that other interactions like kissing and bjs can expose us to stuff too. BE SAFE WHENEVER FLUIDS ARE INVOLVED – NOBODY IS SAFE.
Regardless, make sure to talk with your new fun-buddy and make sure that y’all are on the same page. It may or may not be awkward when you pull out a dental dam and 7 condoms, but who cares? Put both of your health needs first!
SEX-ED AIN’T NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED ABOUT
Most importantly, this experience made me realize that we can’t truly be sex-positive or be progressive without recognizing and accepting all of the aspects of the sexual realm. These topics shouldn’t be taboo nor should we shame people for going to get tested. It’s like shaming someone for going to the doctor because they have strep throat… which is literally an infection that’s transferred through fluids and usually requires an antibiotic. So, why is one seen as more gross than the other?
After traveling for a long time, it became apparent that attitudes on sex change from country to country. In the USA, the topic of getting tested and being honest is seen as “dirty.” This thinking basically discourages people from going to the doctor in the first place, DESPITE the fact that most infections are curable. And if you don’t get checked, how can you be honest with your partner(s)? More importantly, who the hell really wants to live their life with an infection that can easily be cured? Oh hell no – regardless of what your society thinks, go to the clinic, boo!
At the end of the day, one article on some random millennial travel site isn’t going to change the sex-ed culture around the world. But, I hope it does inspire people to be safe during their international flings, to be honest with themselves and their partners, and for us NOT to be ashamed to have conversations about something that is way more common than we think.
Best of luck on your journeys, kiddos!
Here are some additional Shut Up and Go resources on the topic:
Comment below how your country views sex, sex-ed, STI treatment, and more. I’m so curious!