Maintaining your sexual health is about much more than just using condoms during sex. Regular sexual health checks at your GP are important also.
For many young men the idea of going to a doctor for a sexual health check is scary, embarrassing and is often something that gets shoved into the “it won’t happen to me box”.
If you are sexually active then you are at risk.
STI check ups are important because of the myriad of other sexually transmitted diseases that you may have been exposed to that condoms alone may not prevent. It is even possible to have a STI and not have symptoms.
Your health is important and going to a Doctor for regular check ups will help give you peace of mind but also mean that if you do pick something up that you are able to act quickly to fight it. Some STI’s can cause very serious health problems if left unchecked.
Take your health seriously boys and look after yourselves.
What would an STI check-up involve?
Testing and treatment are easy and quick. STI check-ups involve:
- Talking about your sexual history
The doctor or health care worker will ask you some questions about your sexual practices to find out which parts of your body may have been put at risk for an STI eg. dick, arse or throat. This helps them decide what tests are needed.
An STI check up for a man who has had sex with men usually involves:
- A blood sample to check for HIV, syphilis and immunity to hepatitis A and B
- A urine sample to check for chlamydia
- A swab of your arse to check for chlamydia and gonorrhoea (a swab is like a cotton bud you would use to clean inside your ears)
- A swab of your throat to check for gonorrhoea
- A physical examination to check for crabs, scabies, warts, syphilis and herpes
If you have symptoms you may be offered different tests.
These tests are recommended for all gay men who don’t have any symptoms. Even if you don’t have any symptoms it is still possible to have an STI and pass on the infection. Testing is the only way to know for sure.
Your doctor or health care worker may suggest other tests like Hepatitis C or genital herpes depending on your sexual history and drug use.
If you are in a new relationship, monogamous or otherwise, it’s a good time for you and your partner to get a check up. You may have picked up an STI from a previous partner. Regular testing is also recommended if you are having sex outside your relationship.
If you’re HIV positive
Getting regular blood tests to monitor your HIV viral load doesn’t mean you are getting tests for other STIs. If you are sexually active you should ask you doctor to test for the full range of STIs whenever you get your HIV blood work done.
Getting an HIV Test
Before you get tested for HIV your doctor or health care worker (HCW) should discuss the test and its meanings and implications with you. This is known as pre-test counselling. In this discussion, the HCW will gauge your understanding of HIV, how it is transmitted and how to protect yourself. The HCW should discuss the implications of a positive or negative result with you, including what support you have available after your result. You should find out about the “window period” and if you need to be re-tested.
You should always be given the results of your HIV test in person. If you have questions or concerns raise them with the HCW if they haven’t been addressed during the discussion.
Testing for immunity to hepatitis A and B
A blood test will show if you have immunity to hepatitis A and/or B.
Letting Previous Partners Know
If you are diagnosed with an STI, or even if you think you might have one, it is important to let your previous sexual partners know. By telling your partners you will be helping them to look after their health as well as reducing the number of STIs in the community. And that might mean you avoid getting the same STI again. Notifying your partners is called ‘Contact Tracing’. You can talk to your doctor, nurse or counsellor about contacting your partners or you can do it yourself if you feel comfortable.
Source: STI Check ups; www.whytest.org