If you’re having sex, please look after your health with regular STI testing
Are you having sex or starting to think about it? First, make sure you know how to do it safely, including protecting yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It’s estimated that one in six people will get an STI in their lifetime.
As part of STI Testing Week (17–23 October), we want you to understand the most common types of STI, how they’re transmitted and how they can affect your long-term health and fertility.
What is an STI?
An STI is caused by microscopic organisms such as bacteria, viruses or parasites. They’re passed from one person to another during unprotected sexual or close genital-to-genital contact. Transmission can also take place during oral sex or when using sex toys. STIs can infect the back of the throat, penis, vagina/vulva, cervix (womb), anus and genital skin. Sometimes you might see symptoms, like a rash, but often STIs can be present without any noticeable signs.
You should also know about bloodborne viruses (BBVs), which are transmitted by blood or body fluids that contain blood.
STIs and BBVs can affect anyone. The most common are:
STIs can cause serious illness and have long-term impacts (such as pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility) for you and also for unborn babies. But most STIs are curable and all are treatable.
You may also have heard of Monkeypox. It’s not an STI but there’s currently a multi-country outbreak in regions where it’s not usually seen. This outbreak is mostly affecting men who have sex with men.
What happens if I get an STI?
Remember these three words: Talk. Test. Treat.
It’s so important to talk about sex and your sexual health to someone you feel comfortable with. This might be your friends, partner or doctor.
If you think you might have been exposed to an STI, get a test, even if you don’t have any signs or symptoms. A ‘positive’ test result means you have an STI. Your doctor will give you medication to treat the STI.
Most bacterial STIs can be treated and cured. This means when you’re finished treatment, the infection is gone from your body and can’t be passed onto a sexual partner.
Some viral STIs can be treated, but not cured. This means when you’re finished treatment, the physical symptoms of the virus are gone but the virus may remain in your body and may still be able to be passed onto a sexual partner.
How can I avoid getting an STI?
Safe sex is a joint responsibility, so make sure you discuss contraception before things go too far!
You can reduce your risk of most STIs by using barrier protection such as condoms every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex. However, condoms do not protect against all STIs. It’s important to have regular STI tests if you:
- have had sex and are under 30, or have had a change in sexual partner – test once a year, even if you use condoms 100% of the time
- are a male who has sex with other males – test every three months, depending on your risk
- have any symptoms
- are worried for any reason.
If you do have an STI, it’s important to let your sexual partner(s) know so they can be tested and treated, which can help prevent you from getting re-infected.
Where can I get tested?
The Deakin Medical Centre has a team of experienced doctors who can test and/or treat STIs. You can have a telehealth or face-to-face appointment – book online now.
If you can’t make it to campus or access a telehealth appointment, search the National Health Services Directory to find other services that suit your needs.
Where can I find more information?
The following websites have helpful information and resources on STIs and BBVs, as well as how to ensure that sex is a positive experience for everyone: