Comedian and sex educator shares her tips for STD testing
Sexual health educator by day and comedian by night, Melissa Strype’s unique approach to taboo topics has grown her following across social media platforms.
She shares her story to stress the importance of sexual health and education.
Passion for educating
Melissa knows all too well the suffocating feelings of awkwardness and embarrassment when learning about sex education. She was once that student.
In a conversation with the Take Control HIV community, Melissa shares she was fortunate to have a health teacher who held open, honest, non-judgmental conversations about sexual health. Not through shaming, not through abstinence-only education, but by building trust and being straightforward.
“I remember thinking if only I could do that for somebody someday,” she shared.
That day in her New Jersey classroom was a turning point for Melissa. She seeks to create the same sense of comfort and trust she felt with that health teacher in her online platforms and comedy routines.
Why is sexual education so important?
“Being in this field has made me a better person, a better communicator, and a more respectful listener,” says Melissa.
In our conversation, Melissa shares that when most people think of sex education, they think of STIs, birth control, and hormones. She wants people to know that it’s so much more. It touches on every aspect of our being and identity.
“It’s communication, it’s power dynamics, relationships, consent. It’s how we behave and interact with each other,” she adds.
How can sex educators improve?
Melissa says we know enough facts. We know that condoms protect us from HIV transmission. We know that antiretroviral therapy reduces the amount of HIV to an undetectable level. She believes we need to go beyond just facts. We need to ask ourselves:
- How do we feel safe in our bodies?
- How do we have conversations that are relevant to our unique situations?
If you’ve just been diagnosed with HIV, you might have all these facts swimming around in your head. You know there’s PEP, PrEP, and ART. You know how it’s transmitted. But what you really want to know is “Can I still have sex?” or “Can I start a family?” We need non-judgmental spaces to ask these simple, yet relevant questions and receive honest, straightforward answers.
Know your status
The only way to know your status is to get tested.
“Everyone having sex should get tested frequently, but people feel intimidated by the process. People know they should do it, but they also want to know: What does it look like? What happens?” says Melissa.
Here are her tips:
- Ask around – What are your options? Where have other people gotten tested? What was their experience?
- Don’t rush – Give yourself enough time to process the before and after of getting tested.
- Bring a friend! – They might not be able to accompany you, but knowing they’re waiting for you is a great form of support.
- Write down your questions. – Don’t let your provider rush you, they’re there to help you.
- Make it fun! – Getting tested can be a normal thing activity like getting groceries. Getting ice cream afterward is one of her recommendations.
“We hear so many negative things about our bodies. Laughing is a way to open us up to seeing things a different way, and realizing our bodies and functions are normal.”
The Take Control HIV community thanks Melissa for her time and for sharing her story. Are you ready to share yours? Email us at [email protected]. For additional resources and education on HIV, visit our site and view our HIV Education Series of booklets, HIV & ME, HIV & Her and HIV & US.