Many people find the idea of a sexual health check awkward or embarrassing. After all, it’s not every day someone you barely know asks you intimate details about your sex life or asks to examine your genitals.
But sexual health checks don’t have to be awkward (and many don’t even involve us examining you).
Knowing what to expect – and remembering that nothing you say will shock or embarrass us – will help make your next sexual health check more comfortable.
Do I need a sexual health check?
A sexual health check isn’t just for when you have symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection (STI), like a discharge from the vagina or penis, genital blisters or warts, bleeding after intercourse or pain when urinating.
A check up can also be useful even if you don’t have symptoms. For instance, if you:
- have had unprotected sex with a new partner
- are in a relationship and are deciding whether to stop using condoms
- have a partner who has been diagnosed with an STI.
Regular screening for STIs is also recommended for people at higher risk of STIs:
- sexually active people under the age of 29
- men who have sex with men
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Most STIs have no symptoms, so regular testing will ensure people in these population groups are diagnosed and treated early.
If you don’t know if you are at risk of an STI, you can take an online questionnaire such as Am I OK? to find out.
You can choose where to go
Your GP will be experienced at conducting a sensitive and confidential sexual health check. But you may prefer to keep this part of your life separate from your other health needs. So, a specialised service is an option.
A sexual health check can be especially challenging for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. So if this applies to you, you can ask to book into a specialised sexual health service where you will receive expert and sensitive care.
Counselling services are also available for adult survivors of past child and adult sexual abuse. People who have been recently sexually assaulted will often have an STI check as part of their care.
You can also ask to see a male or female doctor or nurse.