All right kid, so you’ve come into the big, bad world of sexual activity. Perhaps your first thought is, “Wow, I/my partner should probably get on birth control so we can have sex without a condom!” Good for you, thinking ahead like that! But stop right there: birth control is very simply what its name implies — just a method to help prevent conception.

When you decide to have unprotected sex with someone, it’s not just a baby that can be borne into existence. In today’s fast and furious dating world, how can you be sure that the person you’re taking to bed isn’t bringing a host of diseases with them? And perhaps more importantly, how can you make sure that you yourself are clean?

The answer is easy, cheap, and relatively quick. If you don’t have a regular doctor or need an immediate test, the state is looking out for you. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has set up a statewide AIDS/STD hotline (1-800-322-AIDS (2437)) and a website linking the information for Region 7 (which includes Charleston, Goose Creek, Moncks Corner, Mt. Pleasant, St. George, and Summerville) located at

All state-run health clinics operate on a sliding payment scale, and see patients regardless of insurance coverage. The Charleston County Health Center’s Preventative Health division (579-4553) offers both a comprehensive barrage of STD tests (HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital warts, herpes, etc.) and testing for HIV solely.

Since the clinic operates with a small staff and only books a limited number of appointments per day, they request that patients call ahead to make an appointment, although walk-ins are accepted on a limited basis. So do yourself, your partner, your parents, and your children (born or unborn) a favor and be safe rather than sorry.

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