Why should you get a sexual health screen, and how often?
Having a happy and healthy sex life is important to many of us, and most people want to become parents someday, so it’s essential to look after our sexual and reproductive health.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can affect our sex lives and fertility. Avoiding STIs by practicing safe sex is essential but it’s also important to be tested for STIs if you’re sexually active, even if you have no symptoms.
Testing for STIs can be used for screening (in people with no symptoms) or for diagnosis (finding out which STI someone has if they have symptoms). The tests that are used are the same in both cases.
Different organisations have slightly different recommendations about STI screening.
The Australian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine has recommendations for STI screening, designed to guide healthcare workers, which are very specific for certain groups. For example, they recommend that males who have sex with other males should get tested every three months (if they have any type of sex with a male in the previous three months).
Sexual Health Victoria recommends STI screening at least every 12 months for anyone who is sexually active and aged under 30, or who has changed sexual partners. Play Safe (NSW Health) recommend STI screening every 6-12 months or when you change partners. Other state governments have slight variations to these. The WA government recommendations specifically state that testing should be the same whether you use condoms or not.
If you think you might have been exposed to an STI, you should see your doctor to request STI screening tests. Of course, if you have any symptoms, notice anything unusual, or if things aren’t working how you think they should, you should see a doctor.
Even if it’s just for peace of mind, regular screening for STIs is a good idea.