Many people who have an STI don’t have symptoms so may not even know they have one. A little concerning hey, however, many STIs are also treatable if found early so there are definite benefits to getting to know your local clinic if you’re sexually active. Regular testing and using condoms are the best way to stay in control of your sexual health and it’s super easy to do! If left untreated, some STIs can cause unpleasant symptoms and could lead to long-term health problems such as infertility or cancer. Testing is confidential, easy, inexpensive (usually free) and a normal part of looking after your sexual health. Here’s the lowdown of what you need to know …
When to get tested
It’s a good idea to have regular sexual health check-ups once you start having sex, when you change sexual partners or start a new relationship – or just every 12 months if that’s easier to remember. Most importantly, you and your partner should get tested before you stop using condoms (and that’s a decision in itself not to take lightly). See your doctor if you have had unprotected sex OR have symptoms such as pain, discharge or itching in your genital area (sorry for the visual) – remember, many STIs have no signs or symptoms so if you’ve had unprotected sex but ‘feel fine’ this isn’t an indication that you’re in the clear. There’s no need to be embarrassed, doctors do this every day and they’re there to help you, not judge you!
Finding a clinic
Is super easy! Your local doctor, Family Planning clinic or sexual health clinic can offer STI testing. Having a test is simple and painless – find your nearest clinic here. There are also some online testing options available in certain states.
Confidentiality and affordability
The cost depends on the tests required and where you go. Many clinics offer low-cost or even free testing for young people. Just ask when you make your appointment even if fees are listed as they are often negotiable for young people.
Doctors are legally obliged to keep information that a patient gives them confidential, regardless of their age, so there’s no need to worry about info getting back to your parents or friends.
On your parents’ Medicare card?
Not an issue, anyone 15 or older can get their own Medicare card meaning any visits to a doctor will not be associated with their parent’s card. Most of this can be done online– you can find more details and the forms here: https://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services/medicare/medicare-card
However, if there are issues that raise concerns about patients under the age of 16 then the doctor may take steps to ensure their safety.
When you get tested
As a general rule you will have either a urine test, a swab, a blood test, and /or a physical examination. The type of test depends on which STIs you are at risk of. A physical examination where the doctor/nurse examines your genitals is usually only needed if you have symptoms (e.g. blisters around the genital area).
STIs such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia can be detected soon after you have been infected even if you show no obvious signs. However, some STIs like HIV won’t show a positive result as quickly and your doctor will advise you on when to be re-tested.
If you have an STI your doctor will talk with you about the infection and if there is a need for further tests and the sort of treatments involved.
Bacterial STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea can be easily treated with antibiotics. Other STIs such as herpes and genital warts can be managed to decrease your symptoms and possible rates of transmission.
While there is no cure currently for HIV, treatment is continually improving. Preventative measures such as PrEP have allowed us to come a long way in combating HIV – you can check out more details on our HIV page or go to http://endinghiv.org.au/
Your medical professional will give you specific advice about who you should notify and about what. Yeah it may seem a bit awkward at first, you don’t need to call them either – for advice on how to easily to tell them visit the let them know website.
STI testing is quick and easy and part of remaining healthy when sexually active. A lot of services around Australia have confidential phone/email services where you can talk to a qualified nurse about your circumstance or concern – find the one in your state here.