Getting tested for STIs and BBVs may seem scary, but really, its pretty straight forward and simple! And super important, both to look after your own health and the health of your partners. To make things as easy as possible, we’ve answered a bunch of your common questions about STI testing below. If you’re nervous or confused about STI tests, start here!
First off, why do I need to get tested?
Most people think that STIs are like the flu – you know you have one when you get sick and start to show the symptoms. But this is actually one of the biggest misconceptions about STIs and BBVs – often they don’t show any symptoms at all. The usual signs people looks for – discharge from the penis or vagina, redness or itchiness around the genitals, as well as puss and sores, aren’t always there or only appear briefly and go away on their own. But if symptoms go away, this doesn’t mean your body has fixed itself. STI’s aren’t like the cold, they don’t just go away. The only way to know for sure is to get tested regularly, once every three months is recommended if you are seeing multiple partners, and once per year if you are seeing only a single partner.
While some STIs/BBVs can have serious consequences, if caught early they aren’t a big deal, which is why it is always important to always be vigilant of symptoms and get regularly tested.
Where do I get tested?
You can get tested at hundreds of locations across Perth and WA. The most accessible is often your local doctor’s/GP, who can test you privately and anonymously. However, sometimes doctors don’t have all the details, so if possible we highly recommend getting tested (often for free) at a sexual health specific clinic, such as Sexual Health Quarters in the Perth CBD. You can also check out of Referral Resource for more details on sexual-health specific clinics in the Perth metro area.
What do I have to do in the test?
Not much, really, but it depends on what you’re getting tested for. Many STI’s, such as chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea can be identified by doing a simple vaginal or anal swab (you do it by yourself, privately, so it’s really not as scary as it may sound). If you have sores, such as with herpes, those sores can also be swabbed to identify the cause. Otherwise, a blood test will identify all STIs and BBVs even when you have no symptoms.
So I have an STI… What do I do?
Congratulations! Lots of people have an STI at some point in their life, and it’s not a big deal. Most STI’s can be quickly treated with a course of antibiotics and go away within a week or two. If you have herpes, hepatitis, or HIV however, the solution is management rather than cure. But no matter what you have, you will still be able to live a happy and healthy sex life.
Some STIs and BBVs can have serious consequences if not treated quickly, such a syphilis, which is experiencing an outbreak throughout Australia right now. If left untreated, it can lead to infertility, disability or even death, but is easily cured with a course of antibiotics. This is, again, why it is so important to get regularly tested.
Are UTI’s an STI?
No, a urinary tract infection or UTI is an infection that results from bacteria getting into the urethra that, quite frankly, has no business being there. A UTI is not an STI, and will often go away on their own, but if symptoms persist you can see your doctor about getting a prescription for antibiotics. Symptoms of a UTI are usually a burning sensation around the urethra, pain while peeing, and a constant need to pee that can be very uncomfortable. Importantly, there should be no discharge or sores due to a UTI. If there are, it’s more likely you have an STI.
If you are experiencing frequent UTIs, there are several home remedies you can try. Some people swear by drinking cranberry juice, other people suggest taking salt baths. There is no way to 100% avoid a UTI, but studies have shown that by peeing immediately after having sex and using glycol-free lubricant are two of the more effective ways of reducing your chances.