What happens during an STI test?
You will be seen by a qualified health professional, like a doctor or nurse, and they usually begin by asking you about your sexual history. Some of these questions may seem quite personal, such as:
- your sexual orientation (e.g. straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual)
- number of sexual partners
- sexual practices
- whether you have any symptoms
- whether you have injected drugs
- whether you have any tattoos or body piercings.
This information is kept confidential.
This is also a good opportunity for you to ask any questions about sexual health.
After taking a history of your sexual activity the doctor or nurse will perform an examination. This means that the health professional will look at your external genital area and maybe inside your mouth, vagina or anus for any signs of STIs.
The following tests might be done for males:
The following tests might be done for females:
- Vaginal swabs. A long cotton bud takes a sample of vaginal secretions. If it makes you feel more comfortable, you can do this yourself.
- Sometimes taking a urine sample.
Some STIs, such as hepatitis, syphilis and HIV, require a sample of blood taken from the arm. If you have had unprotected oral or anal sex, a throat swab or self-collected anal swab may be required.
Getting the results
Test results normally take about one week. If your result is positive, sexual partners also need to be tested and treated. This is called contact tracing. Otherwise you could keep re-infecting each other. People with symptoms of an STI may be treated before the test results are back.
Finding out that you have an STI can feel isolating, but remember that it's not the end of the world, and it’s far better to know. Talking to a parent or trusted friend can help.
A Pap smear tests for early changes in the cells of the cervix to prevent cervical cancer. It is currently recommended that all women aged between 18 and 69 who have ever been sexually active, have regular pap smears every 2 years. Pap smears can be done at the same time as an STI test, when the vaginal swab is taken.
The National Cervical Cancer Screening Program will be changing from May 2017. Updates on the new screening program and recommendations will be provided next year. Go to the National Cervical Cancer Screening Program (external site) for more information