Everything you need to know about getting tested for HIV and STIs

By Stephen Watkins, updated 8 months ago in Health / Sexual health

Two men about to kiss

Part of having a healthy sex life involves getting regular checkups. Guys into other guys are recommended to test for HIV and STIs every three months.

STIs such as chlamydiagonorrhea and syphilis are a fact of life. They don’t always have symptoms. And condoms don’t always provide protection from them — especially if condoms aren’t used for oral sex.

The good news is that most STIs are easy to treat with a short course of antibiotics if detected early.

When it comes to HIV, many guys assume they’re negative based on their last test. But that result is only ever as accurate as six weeks before the test because of the HIV window period.

So, do you know your status if you’re not testing regularly? The only way to be sure is to test for HIV and STIs and encourage your partners to do the same.

Getting a full checkup

A regular sexual health checkup is all part of a healthy and happy sex life. Depending on where you live, you can usually get tested at a sexual health centre or with a local doctor. Find your nearest sexual health testing service using our interactive map.

If it’s your first time, or if you’re feeling nervous about the results, take the opportunity to discuss your concerns with your doctor. There’s very little they haven’t heard before, and honest discussion about your health and any risks helps them give you the best information for making choices about your health.

A full checkup involves having a little blood taken from your arm to test for HIV and Syphilis. Testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea requires a small urine sample and swabs of your throat and arse. Trans guys should get a vaginal/front hole swab too. The doctor will most likely teach you how to collect the swabs yourself. Hepatitis C might not be included in every checkup, so it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or nurse about testing for it.

The process is as simple as that and should give you an opportunity to talk to your doctor or nurse about maintaining a healthy sex life, too.

If you have Medicare, sexual health tests are free, though you might have to pay an appointment fee to see a doctor. Some sexual health centres offer free testing for folks without Medicare.

Rapid HIV testing

You can now get a rapid HIV test less than 30 minutes. Many services now offer this type of test which means looking after your own health and that of your partners has never been easier. You’ll receive your HIV test result in just one visit!

Services such as aTEST in Sydney, Pronto! in Melbourne, RAPID in Brisbane, M Clinic in Perth and Rapido in Adelaide are peer-run rapid HIV testing services. This means the tests are performed by clinically trained gay and bi guys who can give advice and answer any questions you’re uncomfortable talking to a doctor about.

The rapid test requires a tiny spot of blood from your finger, similar to the pin prick test people with diabetes use to monitor their health. The test usually takes less than 15 minutes to produce a result while you wait. You can find all rapid HIV testing and peer-run services near you in our interactive map.

PrEP, HIV positive and testing

HIV-positive guys who use HIV treatment and HIV-negative guys who use PrEP are generally great at remembering to get tested because it becomes part of our regular routines. If you’re living with HIV, test for STIs when you’re getting your routine viral load testing done.

If you’re living with HIV and not using treatment, some STIs can cause an increase in your viral load. This can increase the risk of the virus being passed on during sex. Treating HIV helps keep you healthy and can eliminate the possibility of passing on HIV. Talk to your doctor about your HIV treatment options.

The results

An HIV blood test usually has a window period of six weeks, meaning a negative result is accurate up to six weeks before the test date. This is because most HIV screens look for antibodies in the blood, and for a small number of guys, it can take up to three months after acquiring the virus for these to develop.

Note that rapid HIV tests and HIV self-testing kits have a window period of up to 12 weeks.

For sexually active guys, testing every three months is the best way to stay on top of your health and up-to-date on your HIV status.

Notifying your partners that you have an STI

STIs that are caught early are usually easy to treat with a short course of antibiotics. If you’re diagnosed with one, it’s important to notify anyone you’ve had sex with since your last test so they can get tested too.

STIs can easily pass back and forth between people. Notifying your partners, and being open to them notifying you if one is detected, helps curb the spread.

If you don’t feel comfortable contacting them yourself, you can do it anonymously. The Drama Downunder has a tool that allows you to send an anonymous text or email to anybody who may have been exposed to an STI. The site can also send you text message reminders for when your next sexual heath testing date is due!