The In's & Outs Of Treating For STI Symptoms
This is where it might get a bit more complicated.
Remember what I said about being honest? This is where it’s really important. Share all the details… Again, they’ve heard (and seen) it all.
First – What are possible symptoms of an STI?
- You might have itching, burning or pain on & around your genitals and abdomen.
- It may hurt when you pee.
- You might have some discharge or pus coming out of your urethra or anus.
- You might have increased amounts, or different discharge coming out of your vagina.
- There might be an unusual smell.
- There might be a new bump/s, sores, blisters, broken skin or a rash.
- You might experience pain during or after sex.
- You might be bleeding from your penis or anus, or have vaginal bleeding between periods.
Based on what you tell them, the practitioner might recommend an examination -
Regardless of what genitals you have, they may need to have a look at them.
They will check your skin & groin area for any signs of infection. They will be looking for any bumps, sores, pain or broken skin, or any visible discharge.
If you have a vagina, they may need to look inside. They do this with a speculum, which they insert (well-lubricated, of course) into your vagina to open it. They look for signs of infection on your cervix & the skin inside your vagina and, while they are there, they will do some swabs.
Pro Tip: If you’re really uncomfortable with this procedure- to make it easier, you can ask to insert the speculum yourself.
If you have a penis, they will check your testes for pain & bumps, and look for any discharge (pus) coming out of your urethra.
If you have symptoms in your bum, they may also want to check inside. This is done with a (well-lubed) proctoscope, which is like a clear tube that the practitioner will use to look at the skin inside your bum and take a swab.
If the practitioner is assessing your symptoms, they may take a few different swabs and test for some other things, depending on what they see when they examine you. Some sexual health clinics also have microscopes and can look at samples on the spot. The benefit of this is they can treat you straight away, if it looks like you have an STI.
However, you still need to wait for formal results from the samples they send to the lab – you may have more than one STI!
More than one!? Sacre bleu!
So, wait until they give you the all-clear (usually about 7 days), before you go out and have sex again.
"Good on you for looking after yourself, your lovers, playmates and pals"
How Long To You Wait To Be Tested?
This is an important thing to understand about getting tested.
If you have had sex without using a condom, or a broken condom, and are worried, it’s worth getting checked to make sure you’re all good. Some STIs may never show symptoms, so it’s still important to get tested. If symptoms show up, there’s no need to wait, so go straight to the clinic.
Chlamydia & Gonorrhoea can take up to 7 days to show up in a test, so wait until the end of the week before getting an STI test.
HIV & Syphilis can take up to 3 months to show up in blood, so you’ll need to come back for a blood test about 3 months after the first test.
If you’re really worried – Phone the clinic and speak to one of the nurses. They will advise the best course of action.
Importantly, if you think you may have been exposed to HIV, you can attend an emergency department or sexual health clinic within 3 days to get PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) - the sooner, the better. PEP is a medication you take for 28 days after exposure, which is very effective at preventing you from contracting HIV. The practitioner will do a risk assessment with you, based on what happened, and you can decide with them if it’s worth taking the PEP.
What Else Can Be Done At The Sexual Clinic?
Plenty of things!
The do health promotion activities & education around all-things sexual health.
They give out free condoms & lube. However, they are usually pretty basic in terms of quality. For some lovely high-quality condoms & lube, check out Frenchie’s selection!
They can also help with contact-tracing, if you need to tell your sexual partner/s that you contracted an STI (Yep, they will also need to be tested).
They might provide PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) for HIV prevention, if you have a sexual lifestyle that has a higher risk of HIV exposure.
They can often provide contraceptive information & prescriptions, or emergency contraception (morning-after pill) if you had vaginal sex without a condom and aren’t using other contraceptives.
They may be able to provide or refer for gender-affirming therapies, such as hormone therapy for transgender people.
They provide sexual health counselling, and referral to other health services, if needed. These may include abortion services, or sexual assault services. They can also link you to community & peer support organisations, such as for sex workers and LGBTQIA+ folk.
See? That wasn’t so scary, was it?
Good on you for looking after Yourself, and your Lovers, Playmates & Pals!
Play safe out there and don’t forget to use protection where possible.