ABOUT STIs

Overview

Sexually transmissible infections – or STIs – are infections that can be passed on through vaginal, anal or oral sex. Most STIs are transmitted in sexual fluids, but some can be passed on from skin-to-skin genital contact.

Most STIs don’t have symptoms and you might never know you have been infected with one. But if you do get symptoms, the most common ones are itching, pain when peeing, sores or blisters, lumps, or a discharge from your vagina or penis.

Frequently Asked Questions

When you visit Sydney Sexual Health Centre, you might be seen by a nurse or doctor here, or you might be given the details of another service or GP that is best for your needs. You will complete some health forms. If you are seen here, you will be told if you need to have a physical exam (see “What happens during a physical STI exam?”), blood tests, urine tests and/or genital swabs.
Before you make an appointment we recommend you complete the online Am I OK? Assessment tool. You can also call us. We will ask you some questions over the phone to determine if we are the best place to meet your needs.
A physical exam is usually only needed if you have symptoms. For a female it involves a check of the pubes and vulva (lips), and a vaginal exam using a speculum (same device used for a pap smear). The nurse or doctor will take swabs from the cervix and vagina. Sometimes it is also necessary for the nurse or doctor to check for pain inside and this is done by inserting 2 fingers into the vagina and moving the cervix from side to side. For a male the check involves looking at the pubes, penis, scrotum and testes (balls). If there is pus coming from the urethra (where the urine comes out) a small swab is used to take a sample of the fluid.
No. It doesn’t cost anything to visit us.
No. You don’t need a Medicare card to visit us. If you have a Medicare card we use it for testing costs, but you can still come if you don’t have one.
We see people with sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or people who have had sex with someone with an STI. We also see gay or bisexual men and other men who have sex with men, young people, sex workers, Aboriginal people, and people who inject drugs.
From arrival to leaving, the average visit takes about 30-40 minutes but it depends on your needs and how busy the clinic is at the time.
Yes. We treat your personal information with strict privacy. However, our staff may discuss your treatment and care with each other to give you the best service.
It’s totally normal to feel embarrassed, but it’s quick and easy to have a test. We see thousands of people every year, so you’re not the only one. Our staff are very experienced at dealing with all sorts of sexual health issues.
You should have a test if you are sexually active. If you have had sex without a condom it is best to test at least 5 days after the sex (except for HIV – see “Why do I have to wait for an HIV test?”). If you need emergency contraception (morning after pill) you will need to go to your local sexual health service or any pharmacy within 72hrs of the sex (you don’t need a script for the morning after pill). If you have symptoms like discharge or burning from your vagina or penis or bum you should get tested straight away.
Our nurses or doctors will decide what tests you need, but generally you will be tested for the most common sexually transmissible infections: chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV and syphilis.
Rapid HIV testing is on-the-spot testing for HIV. The result is available after 20 mins. A small amount of blood from your fingertip is used for the test. Rapid HIV tests are available at our clinic. You will need to discuss with the doctor or nurse if it is the right test for you.
Your can collect your test results over the phone one week after testing.
It takes at least 6 weeks before HIV infection can be detected in your body by blood tests, so we recommend having a standard HIV test 6 weeks after your exposure. In 99% of cases the test can detect if you have HIV infection at 6 weeks. For a lot of people this can give peace of mind. If you want to be 100% sure then have the HIV test at 12 weeks.
No. You don’t need to tell your parents about getting an STI test. If you’re 14 years old or over and the doctor or sexual health nurse thinks you’re mature enough to understand the health issue, tests, and treatment options, you can see a doctor or nurse without a parent present. You can also get your own Medicare card at 15 years old.
You can visit any doctor, a local sexual health service, or an Aboriginal Medical Service. Call the NSW Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624 to find the sexual health service closest to you. All calls are private and confidential. Calls from landlines are free (if you call from a mobile phone, normal charges will apply).
You can buy a pregnancy test kit from any pharmacy or get a blood test from your regular doctor.
Sex workers have some of the lowest rates of STIs in NSW. Sex workers use condoms and get tested more regularly than the general population. It’s a good idea to have a sexual health check if you’ve had condomless sex or have any genital symptoms you’re worried about.
Yes, it is possible to get STIs through oral sex, although it tends to be a lower risk than either vaginal or anal sex.
For the ongoing oral contraception pill you will need to go to your local doctor (GP) or family planning clinic. Young people under 21 can discuss contraception at our youth-specific Satellite Clinic. You can get the emergency (morning after) pill at our clinic. Your nurse or doctor will decide if it is suitable for you. You can also get the emergency pill at pharmacies without a script.
No. We recommend speaking to your doctor about Pap tests.