Getting Candid About STIs

Getting Candid About STIs
Image: Make STI testing your Beforeplay. Image: supplied

It is the kind of topic that is at the back of everyone’s minds, and one we often avoid talking about. One in six Australians will get a Sexually Transmissible Infection (STI) in their lifetime. It’s time to have an open and honest conversation about sexual health, breaking down stigmas, and promoting safer practices and regular sexual health check-ups.

Firstly, let’s clear the air about STIs. They don’t discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender, race, or relationship status. They’re equal opportunists, and anyone who’s sexually active can get an STI. That said, the LGBTIQA+ community, like any other, has its unique considerations and challenges. One common misconception is that only certain STIs affect gay men. False! That’s a myth. STIs like HIV, syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, and Human papillomavirus (HPV) can impact anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation. The key to avoiding them is knowledge and prevention.

Knowledge Is Power

In recent years, Australia has seen a surge in STI cases, with young people aged 34 and under being the most vulnerable.

“The number of new cases of some STIs is continuing to rise, particularly in young people aged between 15 and 34 years,” says Professor Paul Kelly, Chief Medical Officer, Australian Government, Department of Health and Aged Care.

“Surveillance reporting shows cases of notifiable STIs have significantly increased since 2012 for chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis. Any rise is concerning because the health consequences of STIs can be severe. But the good thing is that STIs are preventable, easily treatable if detected early, and in most cases, curable.”

Knowing how STIs are transmitted, their symptoms, and prevention methods is key.

For instance, did you know that many STIs have no symptoms? You could have an STI and not know it, which could have consequences for your health later. Some STIs like HPV, herpes and syphilis can also be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, for instance, via kissing or oral sex. It’s eye-opening information that underscores the importance of regular testing, always using protection, and open communication.

Get Tested

Testing is a pivotal aspect of sexual health. While some STIs have telltale signs like itchy genitals, discharge, sores, lumps or warts, most don’t come with flashy neon signs announcing their presence. That’s where testing becomes your superhero cape. Regular screening is vital for early detection and treatment. And as always, remember to use protection to help protect yourself and your partner(s) from STIs.

Most STIs are treatable and importantly, preventable. But one thing to remember is that early detection is crucial. If left untreated, STIs can lead to serious health problems. Getting tested for STIs should be a regular affair. Whether you’re in a committed relationship or exploring different options, the responsible thing to do is to know your status and encourage your partner(s) to do the same. Your healthcare provider can give you advice about how often to get tested based on your individual circumstances.

According to the Chief Medical Officer, any sexually active person should get tested every six to 12 months, and it’s recommended that sexually active men who have sex with men should have a sexual health check-up every three months.

“Individual circumstances vary so people should get advice from their health care professional,” says Professor Kelly.

Image: Make STI Testing Your Beforeplay. Supplied


Always be prepared for safe sex. Remember to use protection:

• Use condom-safe lubricants (e.g. water or silicone based) to help stop condoms from breaking.
• Use condoms or dental dams during oral sex to help prevent the spread of STIs.
• Use a new condom every time you switch between oral, anal or vaginal sex.

Condoms can be the armour in the battle against STIs by providing a barrier that significantly reduces the risk of transmission. But let’s acknowledge they’re not foolproof, sometimes not even used (but definitely should be) and don’t prevent all STIs all the time. Anyone who is sexually active should have regular sexual health check-ups.

Over the past decade, pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) has been a game-changer. PrEP is an additional armour of protection for HIV by reducing the risk of contracting HIV significantly, but not other STIs.

Where To Get Tested

Most STI tests are free or involve very little cost.

“It’s important to know that health professionals don’t judge and are trained to talk about it,” says Professor Kelly.

“Access to STI testing is now easier than it ever has been, thanks to innovative solutions, including online services. You can also visit to find a sexual health clinic near you.”

STI testing is simple and may involve blood or urine tests. Sometimes, you may need to provide a swab sample too, which you can usually undertake yourself. You can get a test at your GP, local community-run sexual health clinic, community health centres, Medicare Urgent Care Clinics, Aboriginal community health services, family planning clinics, youth health centres and women’s health centres.

Remember to prioritise your sexual health because it is fundamental to your overall health and well-being. It’s a shared responsibility between yourself and those you care about. So, let’s normalise this conversation by speaking openly, honestly, and without judgement, and by supporting regular testing, because knowledge truly is power.

Stay fabulous, stay informed, and stay safe! Make STI testing your Beforeplay. Use protection and book a check-up today.

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