What is an STI?
If you are sexually active, you can get a sexually transmissible infection (STI) – even if you practice safe sex most of the time. STIs do not discriminate by age, location, gender, sexuality or lifestyle. It is estimated that around one in every six people will get an STI in their lifetime.
There are many different STIs, such as:
Pubic lice (crabs)
Not all of them have obvious symptoms, so there is a chance that you or your partner could have an STI without knowing it.
The good news is, most STIs are curable and all are treatable. But if left untreated, STIs can have long-term effects on your body.
In most cases, a simple blood or urine sample is all that is needed.
Who should get an STI test and how often?
If you are sexually active, you should get an STI test at least once every 12 months.
If you are planning or you are having a baby, it is also important that you and your partner have an STI test to prevent any infections being passed onto your baby.
Some people have different testing needs so it is important to talk to your doctor about how regularly you should be getting tested. For men who have sex with men, gay identifying or bisexual men, we recommend getting regular check-ups for STIs, including HIV and syphilis, at least once a year. Have more frequent (three-monthly) check-ups if you have an increased number of sexual partners (for example, more than 10 partners in three months), are HIV-positive, or participate in group sex.
If you are sexually active, talk to our doctors about having a check-up, even if you do not have any signs or symptoms of an STI.
What happens if I get a positive STI test result?
Your doctor will be able to talk you through what treatment you will need, which might include antibiotics (particularly for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, Mycoplasma genitalium and syphilis) or medicated shampoos (for pubic lice and scabies).
For viruses such as genital herpes, HIV, hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV), treatments will control the virus, help prevent symptoms, and prevent them from being transmitted.
The best way to avoid needing treatment is to take proactive steps to avoid getting STI. That means condoms. Condoms are the easiest, and most effective way, to protect yourself from STI.
Remember: Do not try to diagnose your symptoms yourself, and not all genital signs and symptoms are caused by an STI.