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Screening tests for STIs

3-minute read

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that are passed on during sexual activity. There are more than 20 types of STI. They may cause symptoms but you can also have an STI without noticing any symptoms. STIs may cause health problems if left untreated.

What are STIs?

Common STIs include chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, genital herpes, hepatitis B and HIV. These infections are caused by a type of bacteria or virus. If they are not treated, STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea could prevent a woman from having children.

Am I at risk of STIs?

STIs can be passed through vaginal, oral or anal sex. If you have unprotected sex, you may be at risk of an STI. Learn more about safe sex here.

Who should have an STI test?

If you are sexually active, it’s a good idea to be tested regularly (every 6 to 12 months) even if you don’t have any symptoms of an STI. You may also want to consider an STI test:

  • if your partner has recently had an STI
  • if you have a new partner
  • if you have frequent changes in partners

What happens during an STI test?

There are different types of STI test. The type you should have will depend on your individual situation. Your doctor may ask you some questions to assess your risk and decide which test you need.

In some cases, you may just be asked to provide a urine sample for testing. In other cases, blood tests or throat swabs, anal swabs or vaginal swabs may be needed. You can usually carry out anal or vaginal swabs yourself or a doctor or nurse can do it for you.

What does an STI test cost?

Pathology testing is often bulk billed so there will be no cost to the patient. You may have to pay to see the doctor or you may be bulk billed. Sexual health clinic services are usually free.

How can I get tested?

You can visit your doctor or a sexual health clinic to get tested. Other places you can be tested include family planning clinics, youth health centres, women’s health centres and Aboriginal community-controlled health services.

What follow-up is involved?

You will usually need to see your doctor to get your test results.

If you do have an STI, your doctor will probably discuss contacting your current and past sexual partners. You can choose to contact your partners yourself or there are anonymous services you can use such as Let Them Know, Better to Know or The Drama Downunder.

Your doctor will also discuss treatment with you. Most types of STI can be treated and cured, while others such as herpes and HIV can be controlled with medicines.

If you do not test positive for an STI, ask your doctor when you should return for your next STI check.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2020

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