Testing & treatment
As some STIs have no symptoms, testing is the only way to be sure if you have an STI.
Getting tested is simple, and should be a normal part of your everyday life if you are sexually active. Most STIs are easily treated, so the earlier you get tested, the quicker you can get the right treatment.
When to get tested
How often you go and get tested really depends on your lifestyle and how sexually active you are. If you are having vaginal, anal or oral sex, it’s recommended that you get checked at least once each year. But there are many situations where getting tested more frequently is the best thing to do.
Go get checked for STIs if you:
- are displaying STI symptoms
- think you may have an STI
- have a sexual partner who has STI symptoms or who has been diagnosed with an STI
- have had unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with casual partners
- have had a condom break or fall off during sex
- are starting a new sexual relationship or have casual partners
- have been sexually assaulted.
If you or your partner notice any signs of an STI, it’s important to avoid sexual activity and skin-to-skin contact with the affected area, and visit your GP or sexual health clinic as soon as possible.
Remember, some STIs show no symptoms at all
Just because you’re not showing any symptoms doesn’t mean you’re not infected. Some STIs don’t cause any noticeable symptoms yet can be damaging to your health if they’re not diagnosed and treated early. The sooner you find out you have an STI the sooner you can get the care you need.
Making an appointment
If things seem daunting when it comes to STIs and getting tested, just remember doctors, nurses and sexual health professionals talk to people about this kind of stuff every day. There’s no need to feel embarrassed.
If you’re looking to get tested there are a number of options available.
The best way to get your regular STI tests is with your GP. If you don’t want to do this, you could visit a sexual health clinic, True Relationships and Reproductive Health, Aboriginal Medical Services (AMSs) or other community-based testing sites.
If you’re already showing STI symptoms, your GP or nearest sexual health clinic are the best options to get tested and treated quickly.
Finding the right service for you
So, you’re ready to make an appointment and get tested for STIs. Awesome! Use the locator below to find the right sexual health service for your needs.
If you’re a Queensland resident aged 16 years or older you can also order a free chlamydia and gonorrhoea urine test through 13 HEALTH webtest. There are two options to provide urine for a webtest:
- at a pathology collection centre after getting a form online (this is the quickest way to get your results)
- by ordering a home mailing kit online and sending it back to be tested.
13 HEALTH also provides support and reminders to get treatment if your webtest is positive. If someone is at risk of having chlamydia or gonorrhoea in the throat or rectum this test will not detect infections in those sites. To find out more go to 13 HEALTH webtest.
What to expect when getting tested
An STI test is part of a regular sexual health check-up performed by a GP, nurse or other healthcare professional. During your appointment the health professional will ask about your sex life, which may include questions regarding:
- sexual orientation (e.g. straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual) or gender identity (e.g. male, female, intersex, transgender)
- number of sexual partners
- sexual practices
- STI symptoms
- history of injecting drugs
- tattoos and body piercings.
The sexual health information you disclose in your check-up is confidential and subject to strict privacy rules, so it’s a good opportunity for you to ask any questions about your sexual health that might have been worrying you.
After chatting about your sexual history, the GP or healthcare professional will examine your genital area and possibly inside your mouth, vagina or anus for any signs of STIs. They may also take a swab, urine sample or blood sample for further testing. You may be able to collect some of the swab samples yourself.
For women, the cervix may be examined for any signs of an STI, and a cervical screening test may be conducted. The doctor will discuss all this with you first so you know what you are being tested for.
Your GP or healthcare professional may also talk to you about:
- safe sex and using condoms
- sexuality and sexual health
- getting safe sex supplies
- having a cervical screening test (women)
- whether you would like sexual health resources and information.
As part of their ongoing health routine, women aged 25 to 74 are recommended to have a Cervical Screening Test every five years. This replaces the previous two-yearly Pap smear for women aged 18 to 69.
Please see the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) website for more information or call the National Cancer Screening Register on 1800 627 701 to see when you are due for your next screen.
If an STI check is making you feel uncomfortable
Sexual health checks might be uncomfortable, awkward and embarrassing but just remember that GPs and healthcare professionals do this every day.
During the check, make sure you stay in tune with how you’re feeling.
If you’re really uncomfortable with the practitioner, or you think they aren’t comfortable with the situation, you might like to see someone else.
If you’d like to book in for an STI check-up, use our service locator to find a GP or sexual health clinic near you.
Is my info private?
Your right to privacy is treated very seriously and it is important you can talk to and trust your health care provider. They are required by law to handle and protect your personal information.
Whenever you see a GP or healthcare provider for STI testing or treatment they will normally talk to you about the process and whether it may be necessary to disclose any of your information, such as a referral to another healthcare provider for further care and treatment.
There may also be other limited circumstances where the law requires or permits a doctor or other healthcare provider to use or disclose information about you. For example, they may be worried about the health and safety of you or others, or they may be required to report certain information where a test result is positive for notifiable conditions (such as an STI).
If you do have any questions about how they will handle your information, it’s a good idea to talk these through first with your healthcare provider.
How will Queensland Health protect my information?
We understand that you may be concerned about how your health information, is handled by Queensland Health should you attend one of our sexual health clinics or public facilities.
All Queensland Health staff must comply with strict privacy and confidentiality laws when handling and protecting your personal information and it is an offence for our staff to give information about you to anyone except under limited circumstances set out in legislation. These circumstances may include:
- Where information held about you is relevant to providing you with appropriate care and treatment
- To help manage STIs in the community and improve public health we must notify some positive test results to the Communicable Diseases Branch of the Department of Health. These records are kept securely and only accessed by authorised staff.
- Where we are obliged by law to disclose information about you—for example, where your records are subpoenaed, if your behaviour is considered a risk to others or yourself, or where some other legal right to access requires us to disclose.
We also maintain strict security policies and practices with respect to who has access to personal and confidential information about you.
If you have any concerns or questions about privacy and confidentiality, please speak with the Queensland Health sexual health clinic staff. You can also call a Privacy and Confidentiality Contact Officer within your local area.
For more information about how we handle your confidential information, how to access your own medical records, or how to make a privacy complaint, please go to Queensland Health’s health records and privacy page.
How will a private GP or health provider protect my information?
If you choose to visit your GP or other private health care provider, they are also required by law to handle and protect your personal information, particularly your health information.
We recommend you check out the Australian Government’s Factsheet: Health information and your privacy It’s about your privacy rights and how private health providers must handle your information.
I’m young, do I have control of my STI testing and treatment choices?
Yes. If the GP or healthcare provider thinks you’re mature enough to fully understand your health problems and consent to treatment choices, then you can see them on your own and make decisions about your own health. There’s no set age for this as people’s capacity to understand medical advice may differ, but it tends to be at about 14. Often the doctor will suggest getting a parent/carer involved.
Once you turn 15 you can also get your own Medicare card here.
Do my parents need to be involved?
If you don’t want your parents to see your health record, make sure you let your GP or healthcare provider know. Generally, if you’re 14 or older, your parents cannot see your health records unless you agree to it. You can also consent to medical treatment without your parent’s or guardian’s consent if your doctor feels confident that you are capable of understanding the nature and risks of the treatment.
For more info:
How much will it cost?
The cost will depend on the tests required and where you choose to go. If you’re getting an STI test, some GPs will bulk bill for it, which means you won’t pay a cent as long as you have a Medicare card. Many clinics also offer low-cost and sometimes free testing for young people. Just ask when you make your appointment if the service you require is bulk billed, or if that’s not possible, whether fees are negotiable.
If you’d like to speak to someone at a medical centre or sexual health clinic about the cost of STI testing use our locator to find a service near you.
Want the lowdown on bulk billing or Medicare? Need to get a Medicare card? Find out more here.
13 HEALTH webtest – free chlamydia and gonorrhoea urine test
If going to a GP or sexual health clinic is an issue, Queensland residents 16 years and older can access the 13 HEALTH webtest program and get a urine test for chlamydia and gonorrhoea. Not only is the webtest free – it’s quick and easy.
Just enter your details into the 13 HEALTH online portal and choose which testing option you would prefer. You can either give a urine sample at a pathology collection centre after getting a form online (this is the quickest way to get your results) or request a home mailing kit which will allow you to send off a urine sample for analysis.
Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are two STIs that often show no symptoms, and people don’t always know they’re infected. The good news is they are easy to test for, and most infections can be treated with a single dose or course of antibiotics. 13 HEALTH also provides support and reminders to get treatment if your webtest is positive. If someone is at risk of having chlamydia or gonorrhoea in the throat or rectum this test will not detect infections in those sites.
If you’re sexually active it’s worthwhile getting tested. Go to the 13 HEALTH webtest page to find out more.
You got the results. What next?
If you’ve been given a clean bill of health, that’s great. But if your results confirm you’ve contracted an STI it’s time to take action.
Remember, STIs are really common so don’t be embarrassed. You’ve done a very responsible thing in getting tested and discovering the infection.
The next step is to get treatment. It’s important to do this straight away because most STIs are easily treatable if they’re found early but untreated STIs can potentially lead to health problems.
See your GP or healthcare professional as soon as you can to get on top of your treatment, and don’t let privacy issues hold you back. Any information you share with your doctor or Medicare is confidential.
It’s very important at this point that anyone you are having sex with, or you’ve recently had sex with also gets tested and treated. Talk to your GP or healthcare professional about what steps you can take to fulfil your responsibilities in letting them know. To find out more go to partner notification.
Most STIs are easily treated if detected early, and HIV can be managed with ongoing anti-retroviral medication. The symptoms of genital herpes for example, are reduced by a combination of antiviral tablets and creams. Some STI medications can be sourced over the counter at your local chemist and others will require a prescription.
The type of treatment you receive will depend on the specific STI you have. One of the most common STIs in young people is chlamydia which is typically cured with a single dose of antibiotics.
That’s why it’s extremely important to see your GP or healthcare professional to get the right advice and treatment. For more detailed information on specific treatments check out the STIs section and click on the relevant STI.
You can get many STIs again though, so make sure you continue with regular STI testing as part of your normal health routine.
How much will it cost?
Costs associated with treating STIs will vary depending on what type of treatment is required and for how long.
For example, Chlamydia is a common STI that requires an antibiotic treatment typically costing between $10 - $20. It’s even cheaper if you have a Healthcare card.
HIV, however, can typically involve costs for an ongoing regimen of three different medicines, subsidised through the Australian Government’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). HIV medication is also cheaper if you have a Medicare card.
For accurate information on treatment costs speak to your GP or healthcare professional. If costs are an issue ask your GP, healthcare professional or your local pharmacist about what options may be available.
If you’ve been diagnosed with an STI, you should look after your health and the health of your sexual partners. That means letting them know they may have contracted an STI, so they can get tested and receive treatment.
This is referred to as partner notification or contact tracing. While it might seem a little awkward, it’s the right thing to do and will help stop the rise of STIs. Remember, partner notification is not about blaming people – it’s about helping people.
Although it can be stressful to deliver this news to a sexual partner, most people will appreciate being told – it shows that you care about their wellbeing.
If you’re likely to have sex with a partner again, not telling them will increase the risk of being re-infected with the same STI, so it’s in both your interests to share what you know.
If you feel like you can’t notify your sexual partners personally, there are other methods of informing them of a possible infection.
How to go about it
The first thing you need to do is consider which partners should be notified. Speak to your GP or healthcare professional to see how far back in time you should go, as it can depend on what STI you’ve been diagnosed with.
As a guide consider these timeframes for the following STIs:
- chlamydia—up to 6 months
- gonorrhoea—up to 2 months
- syphilis—up to 12 months
- HIV—3 months before your last negative test
Similarly, your relevant risk history, clinical presentation and personal circumstances may help you and your GP or healthcare professional determine which partners are contacted.
Once you’ve identified the partners who need to be informed you must then decide whether you’ll contact them yourself or organise someone else to do it for you.
Letting them know
Most people prefer to be told in person but you can also choose to text or email someone if the direct approach isn’t an option. If you’re not sure what to say or how to say it, ask your doctor for advice on what needs to be shared and what the best approach might be.
Alternatively, you can get someone else to do it for you. You can give your GP or healthcare professional permission to notify your ‘contact’ on your behalf. This can be done discreetly without the need to identify you in any way. This is recommended particularly for situations where you feel that telling a contact could put your personal safety at risk.
There are also several easy-to-use contact tracing websites that allow you to send a personal or anonymous message to any sexual partner you need to get in touch with:
- Let Them Know – people diagnosed with chlamydia, gonorrhoea, mycoplasma genitalium, syphilis and trichomoniasis can tell their sexual partners they might be at risk, via a conversation, SMS, email or letter.
- The Drama Down Under – provides STI information for men who have sex with men. Through this site men diagnosed with an STI can use an e-card or SMS service to advise their sexual partners that they may be at risk.
- Better to Know – provides STI information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Through this site anyone diagnosed with an STI can use an e-card or SMS service to advise their sexual partners that they may be at risk.
Please note that it is not recommended to use these partner notification sites for HIV. Your healthcare provider should advise and support you following a diagnosis of HIV.
Help and assistance
13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84)
Get free health advice from a registered nurse over the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Bulk billing & Medicare explained
What is Medicare?
Medicare is a Commonwealth government scheme that gives Australian residents access to healthcare. Most taxpayers pay a Medicare Levy of 2% of their taxable income to help fund it.
Medicare gives you access to:
- a range of medical services for free or at a lower cost including; doctors, specialists, optometrists, dentist and other allied health practitioners
- lower cost prescriptions
- free care as a public patient in a public hospital
- a range of cheaper hospital services (not including hospital accommodation and items such as theatre fees and medicines).
What is bulk billing?
Bulk billing means that you do not have to pay for your GP appointment. The government pays the GP for you. But not all GPs bulk bill, so it’s a good idea to check with your health service when making an appointment to ensure you’re not out of pocket. It’s also important to know that many GPs will bulk bill students, healthcare cardholders and people under 16.
In order to gain access to a bulk billing health professional such as a local GP you need a Medicare card. If you don’t already have one, or you need to find out more about your Medicare card options, go to How to get a Medicare card.
Does Medicare cover STI testing?
If you’re getting tested for an STI, some GPs will bulk bill for it as long as you have a Medicare card. Many clinics can also offer low-cost or sometimes free testing for young people. Just ask when you make your appointment if the service you require is bulk billed, or if that’s not possible, whether the fees are negotiable.
If you’re a young person aged 15 years or over, you can get your own Medicare card. This is important to know because having your own Medicare card (not a parent’s duplicate) means your parents cannot access your Medicare records, and you can maintain privacy regarding your sexual health.
How to get a Medicare card
If you’re 15 years or older and you don’t have your own Medicare card, apply for one by following these simple steps:
- Access the Medicare enrolment form here.
- Follow the instructions and fill it out.
- Return the form with your supporting documents (see instructions).
- Shortly thereafter you’ll receive your new Medicare Card in the mail, and you’ll be ready to find a bulk billing health professional for your STI check-up.
*Remember, Medicare understands your right to privacy and won’t disclose any information to your family.
If you’re under 15, or not eligible for a Medicare Card, get in touch with 13 HEALTH on 13 43 25 84.