Do I need an STI (sexually transmitted infection) check?
If you have had unprotected sex, have a new partner (or more than one partner), or if for any reason you are worried you have been exposed to an STI, talk to your healthcare provider about getting tested.
Remember, not all STIs are prevented by the use of condoms, so even if you had protected sex, it is a good idea to get tested if you notice any symptoms on yourself or your partner.
STIs are really common, and most of us will get at least one in our lifetime. Most young people with an STI do not even know that they have it.
If you leave an STI untreated it can spread to others and there could be more serious health problems down the road.
Getting tested and treated for STIs is really easy and painless these days. Free STI checks are available for under-22-year-olds from many providers throughout New Zealand.
If you think you may have a sexually transmitted infection, you need to see your doctor, sexual health clinic or another healthcare provider.
What happens in a sexually transmitted infection / STI check?
During your consultation, you will be asked about your sexual history—be totally honest! You don’t need to be embarrassed or ashamed, they’ve heard it all before and have treated hundreds of other people. Sharing all of the information you can help them assess the tests and treatment you need.
Your visit will always be private and confidential, no matter which doctor or nurse you go to. There's no need to feel embarrassed about having an STI check. Remember, doctors and nurses are used to testing for all kinds of infections: to them, it's their job. Don't forget, you can ask to see a female doctor or nurse if you prefer.
The doctor or nurse should do a visual exam of your genitals to check for any physical signs of infection. Tests might involve a urine (pee) sample, blood sample, swab or examination.
If you’re female, they may take some swabs of your vagina. It might be slightly uncomfortable, but not painful. If it is painful, tell the doctor immediately.
If you’re male you will be asked to self collect a urine (pee) sample. They may swab your throat or rectum, depending on the sexual encounters you’ve had as well as any symptoms you’re experiencing.
An STI check tests for the common bacterial STIs. Herpes, HPV and HIV are caused by viruses and are not routinely tested for unless symptoms are present. Ask what your STI check includes and does not include. An HIV test is not included automatically but can be done if requested.
Some STIs can’t be identified right away, so going for an STI test the day after unprotected sex might not give you a true result. For example, chlamydia can take two weeks to show up in your system. So if you have had unprotected sex you need to wait two weeks for a test.
JUST THE FACTS is brought to you by the Sexually Transmitted Infections Education Foundation (STIEF) - an initiative funded by the Ministry of Health through collective District Health Boards to educate New Zealanders about STIs.