Have symptoms that you’re worried about?
Wondering if you’re at risk of an STI? We can help with screenings, diagnosis and treatment, while giving you a clear explanation of what it all means.
Sexually transmitted infections are passed through skin to skin contact, some across mucosal membranes such as mouth and lips, some through bodily fluids.
Depending on what kind of sex you have, and who you have sex with, there will be a variable risk of you having been exposed to sexually transmitted infection (STI – previously known as an STD – sexually transmitted disease – a term done away with due to the pejorative implications of the word “disease”).
Symptoms of Common STIs
Sometimes people develop symptoms of these infections, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes there is a good test for these STIs, sometimes not! There are more unusual, blood-borne viruses which are usually symptomatic, but could be dangerous if not treated e.g. HIV or syphilis.
For some STI/STDs, vaccination is available e.g. Hepatitis B, HPV.
Herpes is very common, and although it carries a big stigma, can be easily and well managed in primary care if you are getting regular outbreaks .
The distinction between Type 1 and Type 2 herpes simplex is largely academic, so don’t get hung up on which type of herpes you have. The best way of diagnosing herpes is by taking a swab of the blisters. Blood testing is unhelpful and should be discouraged as blood test results for herpes infection are often misleading, and unhelpful with management of the condition.
Testing can be done, sometimes on a urine sample (chlamydia and gonorrhoea) though your doctor will probably want to examine you to see if there are any visible signs of STI/STD.
If symptoms occur with STI, it might be a skin lesion ( lump or sore), penile discharge, itching, skin irritation or painful urination.
Whether or not you have symptoms or (think) you have been exposed, come and see us in our Sydney sexual health clinic to discuss your risk and whether a screening and treatment is necessary.
HPV (Human Papilloma Virus
HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) can’t be screened for, but it is a very common infection in people who are or who have ever been sexually active. You will probably never know that you have been infected with HPV.
Some people however, may develop warty lesions around their genitals or anus.
All teenagers in Australian schools are now getting HPV vaccination which is a good way of reducing the prevalence in society of the HPV infection.
HIV prescribing (S100) and PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis)
PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, and is for HIV negative people taking an antiretroviral drug (one per day) to protect and prevent HIV infection.
PrEP is taken every day before potentially being exposed to HIV, similar to the contraceptive pill that prevents unplanned pregnancy.
Studies from around the world have proven that when PrEP is taken consistently and on a daily basis, it is highly effective at preventing HIV, even if your partner is HIB positive.
PrEP is available at our clinic for people who are at high risk of exposure to HIV. All our PrEP patients are health-conscious, fun-loving people who understand the risk of HIV transmission and the consequences. PrEP is a long-term commitment and requires you to not only take the medication daily, but also have regular checkups.
Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
Though we certainly don’t encourage it, we do know that there are times when you don’t play as safe as you know you should. But if you act quickly, PEP could be your “get out of gaol” card.
PEP is a four-week course of HIV treatment that helps to prevent HIV infection. It works by stopping the virus from replicating after a recent exposure. If PEP is started quickly, the HIV infected cells die before the virus establishes itself in the body.
If you believe that you may have been exposed to HIV (eg. condomless anal sex or condom breaking, sharing needles etc), you should start PEP as soon as possible (ideally within a few hours of the event if possible).
We are also S100 prescribers which means we can look after clients with established HIV infection and provide them with medication as well as ongoing holistic care for all aspects of their health.
Why should I get tested?
Sexual health screening and testing is like any other kind of screening; it aims to pick up conditions before they get serious, make you sick or infect someone else. Some STIs (sexually transmitted infections – formerly known as STDs or sexually transmitted diseases) can be present but you can feel completely well. If you don’t have symptoms and you don’t know you have an infection, you could pass the infection on to someone else without knowing you have done so, and make that person sick.
How do I get tested?
Simply make an enquiry to see one of our doctors, and we can counsel you through which tests might be appropriate. We can test for common STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea on a urine specimen or swab, and may recommend you get blood taken to check for blood borne viruses. For women we might need to do an internal examination. There are excellent and accurate tests for most STIs available, though some viruses, such as HPV and Herpes can be tricky to detect. We can counsel you as to your risk of exposure of STI and arrange for you to have all the appropriate tests.
When should I get tested?
STIs have an incubation period—a time period before the infection can be detected in the new host. Incubation periods may vary from a few days to several weeks, so it may be that if you have been exposed to an STI, you may not get symptoms for a while afterwards, and yet you may be infectious and able to pass the infection on to someone else. Some people get regular tests, every 3-6 months, a bit like weighing themselves to show they are maintaining a healthy weight.
Who should get tested?
Anyone who has had sex may have been exposed to an STI. They are common and easy to manage, just like the common cold. STIs are transmitted during sex. Certain infections are more common in people who like a certain kind of sex, such as men who have sex with men. Sexually transmitted infections can be transmitted through skin to skin contact, bodily fluids such as blood or semen, or from mucous membranes (e.g. in the vagina or mouth). STIs may or may not have symptoms, so it is possible to screen for infection and diagnose them even if the person is completely well and unaware they are infected.
Use a Condom!
Condoms are the only real option for protecting you against STIs.
Some people complain that sensation is reduced with condom use, or that is difficult to negotiate use with a partner, especially if caught up in a passionate moment. For casual sex or with a new partner, condoms are really the only way to go. “If it’s not on, it’s NOT ON!”. Just make sure you anticipate that they might be needed, and carry some with you. Be prepared to just say the word before penetration occurs. Your partner will respect you for it! Condoms also reduce the risk of pregnancy by acting as a barrier contraceptive.