Because STIs don’t always have easy to recognise symptoms, many people who are infected might not even realise they have one. Long term some STIs can cause major health problems like infertility and cancer but if they are diagnosed early, most are easily treatable.
If you’re sexually active it’s really important to not only use condoms but also go to your doctor or local clinic and get tested regularly. Testing is confidential, easy and inexpensive (usually free). In fact it’s something you should think of as a normal part of your healthy personal care.
Here’s a few things about testing you might like to know:
When to get tested
Having regular sexual health check-ups are a really good idea once you start having sex. This might be when you’re changing sexual partners or starting a new relationship. Or you might just do it every 12 months as it’s easier to remember.
Another really smart time to get tested is before you and your partner decide to stop using condoms. And of course if you have had unprotected sex OR you have unusual symptoms like pain, strange discharge or itching in your genital area.
Though you might feel embarrassed about asking a doctor for an STI test, don’t be. Doctors do this every day and are not going to judge you. In fact they’d be 1000 times happier to be asked, than to discover they had missed helping a person infected with an STI.
Finding a clinic
Is easy! Your local doctor, Family Planning clinic or sexual health clinic can offer STI testing – you can find your nearest clinic here. Having a test is simple and painless and in some states, there are online testing services such as www.couldihaveit.com.au and www.getcheckednow.com.au.
All doctors are legally obliged to keep patient information confidential, regardless of the age of the patient. So don’t be nervous about any personal info getting back to your parents or friends.
Many clinics offer extremely low-cost or even free testing for young people. To find one near you. check out our where can I get tested page.
Of course you can go your local doctor, just ask if there are any fees involved when you make your appointment but remember these are often negotiable for young people.
On your parents’ Medicare card?
Anyone 15 or older can get their own Medicare card. This means any visits to a doctor or health clinic will not be associated with their parent’s card.
Most of this can be done online. Just go to https://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services/medicare/medicare-card
When you get tested
As a general rule you will have a urine test, a swab, and/or a blood test. The type of test depends on which STIs you might be at risk of. A physical examination, where the doctor/nurse examines your genitals is usually only necessary if you have symptoms in that area. For example, discharge, blisters or warts.
If you do have an STI your doctor will talk with you about the infection.
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 your chances of infecting others.
While there is no cure currently for HIV, treatment has improved greatly over the last decade. Preventative measures such as condoms and PrEP (pre exposure prophylaxis – antiretroviral drugs taken by HIV negative people to prevent HIV infection) have allowed us to come a long way in combating HIV. You can find out more on our HIV/AIDS page or go to 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 some great advice on how to tell someone, visit the let them know website.
STI testing is quick and easy, and part of remaining healthy when sexually active. There are many services around Australia that have confidential phone or email services where you can talk to a qualified nurse about your situation or concern. You can find one in your state here.