Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) Screening is available in our clinic. You may see a nurse or a doctor. For women, a Pap Smear is not the same thing as STI Screening. Anything discussed with your practitioner at an STI Screening consultation is confidential.
Everyone who is sexually active needs to know about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and how best to protect against them.
Sexually transmissible infections (STIs) are common in Australia, and can be caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites. You may think that only other people get STIs and that you are not at risk of catching one, but anybody who is sexually active can be infected if they do not practice safe sex. You can’t tell just by looking at a person that they have an STI.
If you have unprotected sex with a person infected with an STI, you are at high risk of catching that infection. Many people feel a mixture of fear and anger if they think they have caught an STI. It's common to feel shame or guilt as well. Because these can be strong feelings some people decide to avoid the issue. Embarrassment can also stop people getting help. If you think you may have caught an STI, the time to get advice, reassurance or treatment is as early as possible. Doctors treat these diseases all the time ... and information about you is confidential.
Waiting and worrying is always a bad idea because even if signs of the infection go away, you can still have the disease.
Sexually transmissible infections include chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhoea, syphilis, genital herpes, scabies, pubic lice (crabs), hepatitis and HIV (the virus that causes AIDS).
There are many different STIs and there are many signs that mean you may have caught one. Sometimes there are no signs at all. Common symptoms can include:
* Unusual discharge from the penis or vagina
* Pain during sex or urination
* Sores, blisters, ulcers, warts or rashes in the genital area
* Itchiness or irritation in the genital area
* Persistent diarrhoea.
* Fever, flu-like symptoms.
STIs are passed on during sex
The most common sexual activities that can spread an STI from one partner to another include:
* Vaginal sex – the man’s penis in the woman’s vagina.
* Anal sex – the man’s penis in the partner’s anus (the partner can be either male or female).
* Oral sex – the man’s penis in the partner’s mouth, one partner’s mouth or tongue in the woman’s vagina or one partner's mouth on the anus of another
* Anal sex – one partner’s penis or sex toy in the other partner’s anus.
Condoms and dams help prevent infection
You can prevent most STIs by using barrier protection such as condoms, female condoms and dams.
Most people are familiar with condoms for men. The female condom is a 14cm, prelubricated sheath that fits loosely into the vagina and can be put in up to eight hours before sex. Female condoms should not be used together with male condoms because the friction between the two may cause the condoms to break. Dams are rectangular sheets of latex, which can be used to cover the vagina or anus to prevent the exchange of bodily fluids during oral sex. They are sometimes called dental dams because they are also used during dental surgery.
Condoms for men can be bought from supermarkets, pharmacists and other outlets. Female condoms and dams are available at SHFPACT and chemists. Latex free condoms are also available from some outlets. Male condoms and lubricant are available free from the SHFPACT. Female condoms are more expensive and not as widely available as condoms for men, but some couples prefer to use them.
General tips for correct use of condoms and dams
Condoms and dams are effective in helping prevent the spread of most STIs if they are used every time you have sex. Some tips for correct use include:
- Always check the expiry date.
- Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
- Make sure the condom or dam is free of holes or breakage before use.
- Use water based lubricants like KY. Don’t use Vaseline, baby oil or massage oils, which can weaken and split condoms or dams.
- Use each condom or dam once only.
- Use dams for oral sex only – do not use as protection for anal or vaginal sex.
Types of STI's
Many STIs are easily treated once they are diagnosed. Treatments for the different types of infections can include:
- Bacteria – antibiotics, either one high dose or a course
- Parasites – medicated shampoos
- Viruses – there are no cures for viral STIs. In most cases, there are treatments to help control the symptoms.
Should I have an STI screening?
You do not have to have any symptoms to have STI Screening. You could have an STI without experiencing any symptoms.
- If you have recently ended or started a relationship
- If you have had unsafe sex or believe there was some risk to your health during a sexual encounter.
- If you have had genital symptoms such as pain, discharge, itching, etc
- If you simply think you might have an STI.
- If your partner has recently had an STI.
- Regularly, if you get paid for sex work.
- Regularly, if you have frequent changes in sexual partners.
- Regularly, if you have sex with people outside your relationship.
- If you are concerned about some aspect of your sexual health.
- Regularly, if you are sexually active and part of a population group in which there is a high frequency rate risk of STIs.
A sexual health check-up will involve:
- sexual history
- examination and tests
- Information on where to get your results
During the consultation you will be asked a series of questions about your sexual history. These are standard questions in which your sexual health practitioner will ask every client. The information you give will help your practitioner to better assess your needs.
Examination and tests
A physical examination may not be necessary in all cases. If you have any concerns about a physical examination, discuss these with your practitioner beforehand.
TESTS that may be performed:
- Urine sample
- Blood sample
- Swabs – vagina, penis, anus or throat
STI screening samples will be sent to a laboratory, where results are usually available within a week. You will be asked to either phone for your results or return to the clinic to discuss them. If you have a positive result, your practitioner will discuss with you the possibility of contacting your sexual partner/s for testing and treatment. This can be done anonymously, ensuring your privacy.
If you have an STI, it is often important to work out who else you have recently had sexual intercourse with. This is so that your sexual partner/s can also be tested. This prevents the continual spread of STIs.
Generally you will be asked to tell your sexual contacts yourself, but you may choose to ask your practitioner to make contact instead. If your practitioner makes contact with your sexual partner/s your practitioner will respect your confidentiality and not reveal your name or identity to your partner/s.
Whether your partner/s need to be contacted depends on many factors including which STI you have and even whether it is possible to trace your sexual partner/s.
For information about specific STIs, like chlamydia, look at SHFPACT's Info Sheet section.