BY DR RACHEL NG, BAYWEST MEDICAL CENTRE (WYNNUM WEST)
As a GP who is passionate about Preventive Health, STI screening is one of my favourite topics to discuss with all patients.
I often wonder if it is the stigma surrounding a sexual health check that hinders patients from discussing their sexual health with their GPs. Today in the form of Q & As, I am going to shine some light on STI screening and maybe more patients will start seeing it as a different kind of “skin check”.
1. What does a STI screen check for and why do I need it when I have no symptoms?
STI screen checks for blood borne viruses such as HIV, Syphilis, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. It also checks for STI such as Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.
STIs are usually asymptomatic. Through early diagnosis and treatment, patients can avoid complications. Most STIs treatments are curative. Being treated also stops the infection from spreading.
2. How often should I be tested?
I recommend anyone sexually active to get tested annually and perhaps even up to 4 times a year if they have a change in partner or other risk factors.
3. What is involved in the check, and do I need to show you my “bits”?
It usually involves a history about your sexual history, and it is not necessary to examine you unless there is a rash or discharge we need to look at.
STI screen usually involves both blood and urine tests.
4. Is a STI screen confidential? If I get tested positive, does it mean my details get sent to a communicable disease centre?
Like all visits to the GP, a sexual health check is confidential. It means we won’t share your information or anything you tell us with anyone else unless you give us permission.
Most STIs in Queensland are notifiable. If a patient tested positive, we will need to inform the Queensland Health public health unit. However, the information is de-identified.
5. After a sexual health check, when will I expect to get my results?
The results are usually available after 1-2 days and I usually recommend having a phone consult to discuss the results.