Things to keep in mind when choosing a harness

Hi! I'm a transmasculine person, and my partners and I got a strap-on recently. It's been really helpful in having gender-affirming sex, but we've also had some technical difficulties, namely that it keeps falling out of the harness. I think it's actually because the harness is a little too big for me––I am a small boi, and one of my partners who's bigger than me hasn't had the same problem. (It's a universal size.) Do you have any recommendations for affordable smaller harnesses? Or other ideas about what the issue might be?

—Petite Polycule

Post guest-authored by Killian Ruck

Size is actually pretty important when it comes to harnesses. If it’s too large for your body everything slides around (or even falls out!) and it’s hard to have the kind of minute control over motion and direction that you really want to have when you’re strapping on a dildo. And if the harness is too small the straps or waistband can dig into the skin very uncomfortably. What you want is something snug but comfortable. Get your tape measure ready.

There are two overarching types of strap-on harness: strappy style or underwear style. They both have advantages and disadvantages. Strappy harnesses are adjustable, which means that if you and a partner are taking turns wearing the harness it can adjust to the right size for each of you; or if your own body changes size or shape (I just started testosterone, so I’m expecting some of that to happen soon), the same harness will continue to work for you through these changes. The downside of this is that you will have to adjust it to your exact specifications EVERY time you put the harness on, which is an extra fiddly step that can be kind of frustrating or even mood-breaking in the heat of the moment. Strappy harnesses are often made of leather, which is kind of the classic strap-on harness look. I, however, would recommend that beginners go for a fabric harness. Leather is a very long-lasting material, but it is not waterproof so it’s very hard to keep clean. Leather is also a little bit porous, so it can trap bacteria, making it less than ideal if you plan to use the harness with more than one partner, or trade off wearing the harness with any partner you aren’t fluid-bonded to. Strappy fabric styles are often machine washable, making cleanup a breeze.

Underwear style harnesses have the ease and convenience of just being able to pull them on and go, but you do need to make sure these fit your body exactly right. I would not recommend sharing an underwear harness with a partner unless you are the exact same size, and it is really hard to buy one of these harnesses online because of the sizing issue. Good Vibrations’ policy is to let customers into the bathroom to try harnesses on over their underwear (like you would with a swimsuit), so if going to a physical location is feasible for you I would at least go there to find your size, even if you make your final purchase online. The other thing to keep in mind with underwear-style harnesses is that they prevent direct access to the genitals of the wearer (because you are, essentially, having sex with your underwear on). Underwear styles are usually machine washable too.

Keep in mind also the size of the o-ring! Underwear-style harnesses have stretchy o-rings, while strappy styles sometimes have stretchy o-rings but sometimes have a snap-in system that allows you to change between different ring sizes. The o-ring is what holds your dildo in place against your body and keeps it from sliding around, so it should fit the dildo as snugly as your harness fits you. If the dildo you have is at the upper limits of what your o-ring can stretch to accommodate, there is a trick you can do to help ease the dildo into the ring. Put a plastic bag over the dildo before you slide it in. This will reduce the friction, allowing it to slide in with ease, then you can pull or cut the bag off once the dildo is firmly situated.

Other things to be aware of: choosing a dildo could be a whole other post, but some dildos have comfier bases than others. This will be the part that’s against your body, so it is often a good idea to look for a harness that has fabric behind the o-ring so the dildo doesn’t chafe the skin. On the other hand, if you’re using a double-ended dildo (or “strapless strap on,” as they are sometimes called, though I recommend using a harness with these anyway), you want to avoid harnesses with fabric behind the o-ring, as that will get in the way of inserting the wearer’s end of the dildo. The compromise that many harnesses make to get around this is to put two overlapping bits of fabric behind the o-ring, so that, much like the fly on a lot of mens underwear, it covers the area but can be parted if needed. Also, if your dildo is too small for your o-ring and is sliding around a lot, there are stabilizer bases available: cushy bits of foam that serve as an extra, larger base for the dildo, holding it in place.

Product recs:

Strappy, low-cost: Lush Strap On by Sportsheets (called Plush Peek-a-Boo harness on Good Vibrations’ website) - $36-$42

            This is a no-frills strappy style fabric harness that still manages to be comfortable, cute, and easy to clean. Comes with 3 sizes of interchangeable o-rings. Available in 2 sizes, both highly adjustable.

Strappy, high-quality: Joque by Spareparts - $125

            The Joque is made of a nylon blend that is moisture-wicking, durable, and long-lasting. It has the stretchiest o-ring I’ve ever seen and I have yet to meet a dildo it can’t accommodate. It adjusts on the waistband and the legs for a perfect fit every time, and it has a pocket above the dildo AND a pocket below for small bullet vibrators. Available in 2 sizes, both highly adjustable.

Underwear, low-cost: RodeoH, multiple styles - $50-$55

            RodeoH makes their harnesses out of double-layered cotton. It holds up a dildo well and is machine washable, but it won’t last forever. The styles they have available are ADORABLE though, and many of their boxers make my gender do a happy dance, so check them out.

Underwear, high-quality: Tomboi by Spareparts - $90

            The Tomboi (or the Tomboii--2 letters i--if you want the more expensive boxer style with 2 o-rings) is made of the same nylon blend as the Joque, so it is moisture wicking and has better longevity than RodeoH’s styles.

Honorable mention: if you have a biological penis but want to strap on a dildo and use that for penetration instead, I recommend the Deuce harness by Spareparts ($140-$145), which has extra room below the o-ring as well as a second smaller, less stretchy ring that can function as a cock ring. The marketing for this product is unfortunately very much geared towards cis men, but that’s really a shame because the product itself is great for all genders.

Is orgasm equality something that should be emphasized or important in all sexual relationships, irrespective of partners' gender?

Orgasm equality is discussed in the context of heterosexual relationships and gender justice (for straight cis women) a lot, and I see its value in that context. Is orgasm equality something that should be emphasized or important in all sexual relationships, irrespective of partners' gender?

AA: We are so glad you asked! I do want to start by naming my identities as a straight cis woman, which, of course, impacts how I think about this. Yes, orgasm equality is often discussed in that context, and may matter in any relational or sexual context if the partner(s) involved feel that it does. That being said, in any context, it’s important to separate the ideas of orgasm and pleasure, and that’s where we will spend our time this week.

LM: Oftentimes, we think of orgasm as the “end goal” of any sexual activity, and we believe that there can be no sexual pleasure without orgasm. In our discussion here, we want to clarify that it is possible for some people to have pleasure without orgasm, and also orgasm without pleasure. A starting point is understanding what you hope to get out of the interaction—is it to bring you pleasure, your partner(s) pleasure, or both? If it is to bring you pleasure, does that pleasure include orgasm?

AA: It’s really important to note that not everyone experiences orgasm in the same way, or to the same degree. Not everyone orgasms in every sexual experience and when, with whom, how, why, etc... Whether or not a person orgasms can be impacted by context, physiological factors, psychological factors, and many other elements. If it doesn’t bother you, not experiencing an orgasm is normal and okay, and does not preclude having a positive sexual experience. Emily Nagoski, a sex researcher and author, has developed some worksheets that can help a person think through some of the factors that may impact their sexual interactions—they might be worth checking out!

LM: Once you have a clearer understanding of your hopes for a sexual experience, it can be helpful to check in with your partner(s) about them. Because we might have different expectations or understandings of each partner’s hopes and needs in an interaction, and these might change throughout the interaction, open communication can help the interaction to be mutual.

AA: Another important thing to name is that power dynamics can impact the entire experience of an interaction, and the process of communicating with your partner(s). It may not be possible to safely communicate your needs, or your partner(s) may not be responsive. If this sounds like something you’ve experienced, know that you can always reach out to OSAPR (24-hour hotline: 617-495-9100).

LM: Thanks again for your question; orgasms, pleasure, and orgasm equality are complex and important topics and we’re glad to be able to discuss them here.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month & AAU Survey

RC: We are going to take a break from our Q&A this week to talk a bit about Sexual Assault Awareness Month (happening now!) and the AAU (Association of American Universities) Survey that students are getting emails about.  This survey will follow up on a landmark survey completed in 2015 by the same association and asks students about their experiences and perceptions of sexual and gender-based harm on their campus.

LM: All Harvard students (both graduate and undergraduate) should have received an email about the survey on April 2nd from the email address 2019campusclimatesurvey@westat.com. This email contains an individualized link for you to anonymously take the survey.

According to the FAQ on the Harvard Title IX website, “responses will provide Harvard with a better understanding of student experiences on campus.  That understanding can help inform university policies designed to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault, improve resources, and measure change to create a safer environment for all of Harvard’s community members.”

Also, all students who complete the survey receive a $5 Amazon gift card!

RC: We also want to note that Harvard is observing Sexual Assault Awareness Month for the month of April. This year’s national theme is “I Ask.” OSAPR and partner offices are hosting a variety of events, including Harvard Wears Denim, coming up on Wednesday, April 24th.  To become a Solidarity Sponsor, email care.harvard@gmail.com.  The entire SAAM calendar can be found here.


LM: We recognize that SAAM can bring a lot up for people, and that the emails about the AAU survey may compound this. We want to make sure this is named, and make sure everyone is aware of some of the resources that are available. This month, OSAPR and the Center for Wellness are hosting Yoga for Restoration sessions every Tuesday from 7-8 pm in the Mount Auburn Room (Smith Campus Center, 2nd floor, accessible through the HUHS pharmacy). The OSAPR hotline is available 24/7 at 617-495-9100. Also, throughout the semester, the Center for Wellness hosts “Wellbeing Wednesdays” from 3-5 pm in the Mount Auburn Room, with tea, snacks, and a variety of relaxing and mindfulness-based activities.

RC:  We hope that as the weather moves toward spring you are able to care for yourself and your community in whatever ways feel most available to you.  We recognize that many of the things we’ve named in this week’s post may be complicated for people and want to honor that. At the end of the day, we write this in the hopes that you are as aware of things going on on campus as is helpful to you and we hope that you are able to make the most of what remains of the semester.

Does anal sex have a higher risk of getting a UTI for a female-bodied person than vaginal sex? —Keeping It Clean

LM: Thanks for your question, Keeping It Clean! I’ll be writing as the context expert for today’s question, answering your question from the perspective of a college student. It’s worth noting up front that, while you can develop at UTI (urinary tract infection) from sexual activity, UTIs are not STIs (sexually transmitted infections). They can develop from sex, but they can also occur from any contact with bacteria, such as wiping “back-to-front” after using the restroom.

AA: I will be writing today as the content expert. There are a couple of things to consider when thinking about UTIs and how sex can play a role in developing a UTI. The short answer to your question is no--anal sex does not have a higher risk of UTIs than vaginal sex for a female-bodied individual. UTIs occur when bacteria get into the urethra and cause an infection. While anyone can get a UTI, female-bodies are more susceptible due to the short length of the urethra.

ureter.jpg

[Image description: diagram of the renal/urinary system, including kidneys, ureter, bladder, and urethra. Image source: https://www.organsofthebody.com/images/what-is-ureters.jpg]

LM: The vagina is very close to the urethra compared to the anus, so for female-bodied individuals, penetrative vaginal sex carries a higher risk of causing a UTI than penetrative anal sex. However, there are a lot of bacteria in the rectum, so it’s still possible to get a UTI from anal sex. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to prevent UTIs, which we’ll discuss next, and treatment is readily available.

AA: There are a number of ways to prevent UTIs:

  • Pee before and after sex to help eliminate bacteria that may have entered into the urethra during the sexual encounter.

  • Drink plenty of fluids and don’t wait to use the restroom when your body needs to go.

  • Don’t douche! While it is good to keep your genitals clean, there is no need to use soap or other douching products inside of the vagina.

LM: If you’re having anal intercourse of any kind (penetrative, oral, etc.), it’s also very important not to go straight from anal play to vaginal play, to avoid transferring bacteria from the rectum to the vagina. Be sure to use a new condom or dental dam when switching from vaginal to anal sex and vice versa, and consider saving any anal play for last.

AA: Some common symptoms of UTIs are:

  • Burning or pain with urination

  • The feeling that you have to pee all the time

  • Frequent urination

  • Occasionally, blood in the urine


If you find that you are experiencing any of these symptoms and believe you have a UTI, contact your healthcare provider. Treatment for UTIs is easy and effective, usually involving a round of antibiotics.

LM: According to the Mayo Clinic, UTIs are very common with over 3 million cases a year in the United States. While UTIs are common, it’s important to remember that they can have more serious complications if left untreated, so even if you’re unsure you have a UTI, it’s best to check with a clinician.

AA: Thank you again for your question, as UTIs are not something we talk about very often. Using the strategies we mentioned above can help you keep UTIs at bay, whether from anal or vaginal sex or something else, but if you do get one, get in touch with your healthcare provider to get it treated.

Supporting friends who have experienced sexual assault

A friend recently shared with me that they had experienced sexual assault.  I’m not sure I responded in the right way. How can I support them moving forward and how do I respond better if someone else shares this type of experience with me in the future? —(Un?)Supportive

RC: Hi (Un?)Supportive, we are so glad you asked!  It can feel like a lot of pressure to make sure that you’re responding well and we are happy to talk through some strategies to take some of that pressure off! In order to give the best advice we can, I’ve invited my colleague, Rose Poyau, Case Coordinator at OSAPR, to help me answer.

RP:  To begin, I’m thinking about questions that I often ask, which are usually, “how can I support you?” or “how can I be helpful?” This is one of the ways that I can center that person and their needs throughout the conversation. It also helps me to make sure I’m not imposing my ideas on them, but am hearing them and what they would like.

RC: Another thing we often talk to people about is making sure that you match their language. This is another way that we can make sure that we are not minimizing their experience or making meaning of their experience for them. For example, if someone describes their experience as “confusing but unwanted,” we recommend that you don’t use language like “assault,” because that might not be their experience. Conversely, if someone describes something as an assault, mirror that language so that it doesn’t feel like you are reducing the significance of that event.

RP:  It’s often really helpful to check in with people about what has helped them get through hardship in the past. This can remind people of their strength and capacity, and we certainly name those things to people every time we meet with them. Examples of questions to ask might be: “what are some of the things that have been helpful in the past?” or “what are some ways you take care of yourself?”

RC: As we named earlier, it can feel like a lot of pressure to hold this type of information for someone you care about. It’s really important to us that each person is able to set their own boundaries about what they can and can’t do. Because of that, it can be really helpful to know of resources in the community who can help provide support to friends who have experienced interpersonal harm.

At Harvard:

In the Community:

RP: Finally, it’s really helpful to make a plan for checking in with your friend in advance, so that you can decide when and how to check in. Some questions that might be helpful are: “do you want me to check in later?” “how would you prefer that I check in?” “when is good for me to check in?” Sometimes I also tell people that, depending on the type of relationship and friendship, it can be nice to do unsolicited acts of caring. I generally only offer that in relationships where that is already a norm.

RC:  Again, we are so glad you asked; the tools and strategies we have talked about apply in almost any type of interaction and we certainly use them in a wide array of conversations. These will hopefully help you as you navigate supporting your friend and any potential future conversations. While it may feel like there is a high bar for doing this right, what we consistently hear from people is that they appreciate having a friend who listens wholeheartedly and doesn’t make judgements.  

RP: We want you to know that you can connect with OSAPR at any time, whether over our hotline (617-495-9100), by walking in between 12-1 M-F, or by making an appointment (617-496-5636 or osapr@harvard.edu). We are here for people who have experienced harm as well as for people who are supporting others.

RC:  Lastly, we do want to note that we are about to begin Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and this is the year for the AAU Survey. Both of those might bring up more experiences or conversations that at other times of the year. We encourage people to connect with each other and with resources as they are able.  Take care and thanks!

RC: Ramsey Champagne, OSAPR Community Advocate

RP: Rose Poyau, OSAPR Case Coordinator


Does it hurt to get an IUD? —Concerned

AA: We are so glad you asked, Concerned. For today’s post I’ll be writing as the content expert regarding intrauterine devices (IUDs). TL;DR: While level of pain varies from person to person, yes. There are a number of factors that inform the physical experience of getting an IUD.

SM: I’ll be the context expert for today. Some factors that can play a role include where you are in your cycle, whether or not you’ve ever given vaginal birth, your personal anatomy (i.e. the shape of your uterus, thickness of your cervix), and pain tolerance.

AA: Some of these factors you may not be able to control but there are some things that you can do to manage the pain. Pain that is experienced during IUD insertion comes from a speculum specially designed for dilating your cervix. If you have flexibility with when you are able to schedule your IUD appointment, try to aim for near the tail end of your period. During this time, your cervix is more open than at other times of your cycle.

SM: Another way to manage pain during an IUD insertion is to take ibuprofen or another NSAID approximately 20-30 minutes before your appointment. This can help reduce the pain from cramping during and after the insertion. If you do choose to take ibuprofen, be sure to not do so on an empty stomach.

AA: Studies have shown that expectations of pain can influence experience of pain. Talking with your clinician about your concerns and what to expect may have a positive impact on your experience. Here are some talking points to possibly bring up with your clinician:

  • Do you prefer to have a step by step explanation of what is happening in the moment or would you prefer less verbal information?

  • Do you have any diagnoses that may have an impact?

  • Have you experienced interpersonal harm, which may inform how much or little information is helpful, the pace at which the procedure goes, and other coping strategies?

SM: There are other things that people have found really helpful during the procedure itself, including bringing a book, listening to a relaxing playlist, bringing a friend or loved one into the appointment, practicing breathing exercises, or zoning out on your phone. After the procedure, some people find snacks, tea, a hot water bottle, or just taking time to relax can help.

AA: If you have any questions, concerns, or pain after your procedure don’t hesitate to reach out to your provider. Thanks again for your question!


Do I need to wear a condom during a blowjob?

AA: This is a great question—we’re so glad you asked! The short answer is yes, although we recognize that this is a very multilayered topic. We know from the 2018 HUHS health assessment that only about 2.7% of sexually active Harvard undergraduates self-report “mostly” or “always” using a barrier method (e.g. condom or oral dam) during oral sex (including oral sex on a penis, vagina, or anus).

SM: Despite low rates of using a barrier method during oral sex, we also know from the HUHS health assessment that over half of Harvard undergraduates believe that their peers are using a barrier method during oral sex. This is largely in conflict with broader societal norms, and can make negotiating barrier method use during oral sex difficult.

AA: Since it can be hard to have these types of conversations, here are some strategies that we’ve heard can be successful for some folks:

  • Having the conversation about protection before the sexual act—in the heat of the moment, it may be more difficult to initiate the conversation.

  • It’s always ok to ask your partner(s) why they’re not willing to use a barrier method, or what specific concerns they may have.

  • Making sure to have the supplies on hand, so that you don’t agree to use a condom and then suddenly find yourself without one.

  • Exploring different ways to use the supplies to maximize pleasure for all parties—making it a fun and pleasurable exploration.

SM: We hope that these strategies can be useful tools, but also know that context and interpersonal dynamics might make any of these strategies hard or unavailable. If you’re concerned about having these types of conversations with your partner, you can always reach out to OSAPR.

AA: Using a barrier method is always a personal choice. That being said, we do want to make sure that people have the information to make informed choices for themselves. It’s possible to transmit STIs (sexually transmitted infections) through all types of oral sex (blowjobs, and oral sex on a vagina or anus). Here is a handy table summarizing the STIs that can be transmitted through oral sex acts.

Oral-Sex-Table-v3.png

(Table from British Columbia Centre for Disease Control: https://smartsexresource.com/about-stis/know-your-chances-0)

SM: As you can see, using a barrier method greatly reduces your chances of transmitting an STI. However, we recognize that the context of each relationship will impact how often and in which situations a barrier method is used. Also, be sure to check out our recent roundup of free places to get barrier methods on campus. Thanks again for your question!

I’m interested in purchasing my first sex toy(s), but there are so many options! Where and how should I get started?

LM: Great question! When you first start looking at sex toys, the variety can be overwhelming. There are sex toys out there for pretty much every conceivable purpose, so one starting point might be thinking about what you (and/or your partner(s)) are looking for in your sex toys. Do you want a penetrative toy? A vibrating toy? Something that is made for two people to use at once? (Also, remember that how a sex toy is advertised isn’t necessarily the only way you can use it—feel free to be creative!)

AA: It’s great to begin thinking about these different questions before you decide to buy one (or more) particular toys. If you decide that you’d like to use a toy with a partner(s) it can be good to involve them early on in the conversation regarding which is the best toy for you to purchase. This will depend on how it might be used, what are both of your wants, needs, and non-negotiables and where those overlap for you both or where they do not overlap. Finding the answers will help determine which is the best to for you (and/or your partner(s)).

LM: Once you have an idea of what general type of toy(s) you’re interested in purchasing, the next step is to narrow it down to a specific product. A couple of factors may come into play at this point: price, quality, material, aesthetic, and color are just a few things you may want to consider. You can get high-quality sex toys at a range of price points, but it’s important to remember that with sex toys, in some cases low price may mean low quality, which can sometimes be unsafe. For instance, some toys on the lower end of the price range may be made of porous materials, which can harbor bacteria even after washing. However, if you’re not ready to spring for a slightly higher-end sex toy, it is possible to use condoms on your sex toys.

AA: Sex toys can come in many materials including silicone, plastic, metal, glass, rubber, and others. It’s important to think about these materials when deciding which to buy. In addition, a great option to add to a sex toy is lube! It can enhance the experience and pleasure for you and/or your partner(s). The type of lube you’ll want to use depends on the material of your sex toy: If you decide to purchase a silicone sex toy it is not recommended to use silicone lubricant as this type of lubricant can break down degrade your silicone sex toy. If you are using condoms on any sex toy it is important to make sure not to use oil-based lube as this type of lubricant will degrade the latex condom.

LM: This can be a lot to keep in your mind as you’re making your purchase. It can sometimes be helpful to go to an actual store when shopping for sex toys, where the employees will be able to help you balance all of these factors when you’re choosing your sex toys. We highly recommend Good Vibrations, a store with locations in Harvard Square and Brookline; the employees are friendly and highly knowledgeable (they’ve gone through a comprehensive training). If you’d rather not go to a physical store, you can also order from Good Vibrations online. Another great thing about Good Vibrations is that they explicitly do not gender their products and are inclusive of all identities. There are also many other places to order sex toys on the internet, including Amazon; whatever you choose, make sure to read the reviews and do your research about materials and safety.

AA: Once you’ve purchased your sex toy, have fun trying it out and getting familiar with it. If you are choosing to use the toy with a partner(s) make sure to talk with them about use before you jump into the experience. It’s always important to continually check in with your partner(s) while using your sex toy even if it’s not both of your first times using this toy. Communication is key to ensure you and your partner(s) are both continually enjoying your fun-sexy-play-time. Again as we have mentioned there are many choices to make when purchasing a sex toy. If the first toy you purchase is not working out for you it may take time and trial and error to find the right toy for you and/or your partner(s).


How do I get STI tested in UHS?  Can I keep my parents from finding out?  How much does it cost?

LM: We are so glad you asked! It’s important to make sure that all Harvard students know that they can receive free STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) testing at HUHS. There are a few ways to make this happen. If you are currently experiencing symptoms that you think are related to an STI, please call or go to Urgent Care. If this is a preventive visit, you can either call 617-495-5711 or follow the steps below to make an appointment (it is somewhat click-intensive):

  • Log into the HUHS Patient Portal with your HarvardKey.

  • Choose the “Profile” tab on the left, and check who your Primary Care Clinician is.

  • Choose the “Appointments” tab on the left and then click the “Schedule an Appointment” button.

  • Choose the “STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) Testing option and click continue.

  • Choose the “Continue to schedule your STI Testing with your Primary Care Team” option and click continue.

  • Select your Primary Care Team and click continue.

  • Type a few words into the text box. You can just put “STI testing” if that feels right. Click continue.

  • Check that your information is correct, then click continue.

  • Type your phone number, then click continue.

  • The system will look for available appointment times. Unfortunately, it only checks for appointment availability within your “Primary Care Team,” so you just have to hope that your team has some appointments available!

  • If not, you can try picking a date farther out, or start the process over and try again with a different care team.

AA: When you go in, you’ll meet with a clinician and they may ask you about your specific concerns and sexual practices. This is just so they can get a sense of what to test you for so try to be honest. Then, based on this, they’ll take either a blood or urine sample and do an exam of the possibly affected area. Also, it’s worth mentioning here that tests are often unable to detect STIs immediately after a sexual encounter. If there’s one specific sexual experience you think might have exposed you to an STI then you should wait two weeks before getting tested so that the test is actually accurate.  

We do want to note that in the case of sexual violence, HUHS does not provide SANE kits. If you would like more information about SANE kits, please call OSAPR’s hotline at 617-495-9100.

LM: Moving on to your next question, anonymity is a really common concern when people think about getting STI tested at HUHS.

AA: Lab tests are processed by Quest Diagnostics, which is located in the HUHS basement. Confusingly, Quest is a separate company with their own billing system. To protect students’ anonymity since STI testing is a sensitive topic, HUHS has requested that Quest bill HUHS directly for STI testing, rather than billing the student’s insurance.

Because of that, there are a few recommended steps for students to take to ensure anonymity:

  • Remind the lab tech to bill HUHS for the sample;

  • For greater confidence, you can also call your insurance company to request that your Explanation of Benefits is sent to your campus address (this is on the unlikely off-chance that your insurance does get billed due to human error).

LM: The tests may take up to a week to be completed and then you will get the result over your HUHS secure messages. If you test positive for an STI then they will follow up with you for next steps about treatment options. We want to end by affirming that there are outside providers that may be more accessible for some individuals. Some outside options for STI (including HIV) testing are:

Fenway Community Health Center

  • (617) 267-0900

  • Located at 1340 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215

Mount Auburn Hospital, Center for Women

  • Located at 330 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

  • (617) 499-5151

AA: We know that STI testing can seem daunting but it’s a really great thing to practice regularly. If have further questions don’t hesitate to contact us or HUHS. Thanks for your question!