Eight reasons why you should get an STI test, even if you don’t think you need one

By Chris Williams, updated 9 months ago in Health / Sexual health

Man smiling after receiving some good news on his phone

For some guys, regular testing is already part of a well managed sexual health regime. For others, knowing how often, or whether to test at all might be big considerations. Here’s some guidance to help you test, take charge and stay healthy.

Testing is the only way to know for sure if you do or don’t have HIV or other STIs, because not everyone gets noticeable symptoms.

Knowing your HIV status and being informed about any STIs means you can take charge of your own health and the wellbeing of others. Detecting and and starting treatment for HIV improves your prospects of leading a long and healthy life.

Ready to book your test? Find your nearest sexual health testing service with our interactive map.

Should I test?

If you’re a guy (cis or trans) who’s had sex with other guys, then yes — sexual health tests are worth doing.

Why? Because knowledge is power, and getting tested empowers you to be in charge of your long term wellbeing, as well as looking after the people you enjoy sex with.

Sexual health tests are relevant for all of us, no matter your HIV status. And testing for HIV isn’t the only thing a sexual health check up should involve, because STIs happen!

Remember that your test results are confidential. All testing in private and public clinics is governed by Australian Privacy Law. At some clinics you won’t need Medicare, and in some, you don’t even have to give your real name if you’d prefer not to. You can contact a doctor or sexual health service in advance to discuss any of this with them in confidence.

How often should I test?

Whatever your HIV status, going for a comprehensive sexual health test every three months is recommended for all sexually active guys. If you’re not sexually active or in a monogamous relationship, it’s OK to test less frequently as long as you’re still getting tested at least once a year.

“…going for a comprehensive sexual health test every three months is recommended for all sexually active guys.”

If you’d like to be reminded when it’s time for you to test, use the free ‘Remind Me’ service at The Drama Downunder.

But this doesn’t apply to me because…

I’m in a monogamous relationship: Monogamy is a wonderful relationship dynamic for some of us, but it’s not an infallible HIV or STI prevention strategy. One in four new HIV infections occurs in men in a regular relationship. Because while it may be difficult to imagine, sometimes sex happens — even without you.

I always use a condom: Even if you’re using condoms every time you have sex, know they’re not completely fail-safe. Condoms are a great tool for preventing HIV and reducing your risk of STIs, but they don’t eliminate that risk. STIs such as syphilis can spread when a condom doesn’t fully cover an affected area of skin.

I only fuck neg guys: Fucking guys who think they’re HIV negative is not the same as fucking guys who are definitely HIV negative. The truth is that more HIV transmissions come from guys who don’t know they have the virus than guys who do. Check out Serosorting: How’s that for a fucking strategy? for more what it means to choose sexual partners based on HIV status.

I only do oral: Whatever your HIV status, you can still pick up or pass on STIs from giving or receiving blow jobsrimming, and kissing. And let’s be real — are you using condoms or dams for oral sex?

“Ignorance may be bliss in some situations, but when it comes to your health, ignorance can be brutal.”

I don’t have any symptoms: Not having symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you haven’t acquired HIV or other STIs. Many of us don’t experience any noticeable symptoms at all when we have an STI. Testing is the only way to be absolutely sure.

I use PrEP: If you’re using PrEP as a highly effective HIV prevention strategy, it’s still important to go for comprehensive sexual health and other routine medical tests every three months as part of your managed program. If you’ve been taking your PrEP as advised, you can be more confident about receiving a negative HIV test result every time.

I already know I’m HIV positive: If you’re living with HIV, regular tests help monitor your viral load and the health of your immune system. But it’s still important to ensure you have a comprehensive sexual health to detect any STIs. If you’re on treatment for HIV, regular testing will make sure it’s working to help you maintain an undetectable viral load (UVL), which means there’s zero chance of sexually transmitting the virus.

I’d rather not know: Ignorance may be bliss in some situations, but when it comes to your health, ignorance can be brutal. Nearly half of new HIV diagnoses in 2021 were in people who had been living with untreated HIV for at least four years before getting tested. And having condomless sex while HIV is left untreated increases the chance of passing the virus on to sexual partners. What’s important to know is the sooner HIV is diagnosed and treated, the better the long term health outcomes. Early HIV treatment increases life expectancy, improves health and prevents serious illness by more than 50 per cent compared to people who delay starting treatment.

What to test for

It’s best to talk with your healthcare provider about which kinds of tests are best for you. Typical ones involve testing for HIVsyphilischlamydia and gonorrhea.

You can also discuss options to test for other STIs such as Hepatitis A, B and C. Vaccinations are available for Hepatitis A and B, and there are new treatments that can cure Hepatitis C on the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) — that’s the list of government subsidised medications available to everyone with Medicare.

Remember that most common STIs are straightforward to treat. And although we don’t yet have a cure for HIV, there are many highly effective, convenient and well tolerated treatment options as well as support groups and services. If you’re in need of support after testing positive for HIV, peer-run community group The Institute of Many (TIM) provide resources online, and via the TIM Facebook group, or contact one of your local HIV positive organisations.

Where to test

There are places you can go to test all over Australia. Every major city has one or more testing services, and there’s coverage for regional and rural areas too.

You can find your nearest sexual health testing service using Emen8’s interactive map.

Alternatively, contact your local AIDS council or LGBTI health organisation in your state or territory to find out more about testing services, including LGBTI friendly ones, and services operated specially by and for other LGBTI people.