Who should consider having a Sexual Health Screen?
If you are sexually active, screening for Sexually Transmitted Infection’s (STI’s) is an important way to protect your health. Many STI’s have no symptoms. This means that you can have and infect other people without knowing it and you can develop health complications in the future if you have not received the appropriate treatment. A Sexual Health Screening gives you the reassurance that you don’t have an underlying disease.
It is important to be screened if you have ever had unprotected sex, a burst condom during any sexual encounter, even if you don’t have symptoms. It does not matter how long ago the episode was.
If you have any symptoms that you are concerned about then it is important to have a sexual health screen. Symptoms can vary but include discharge from your penis or vagina, painful intercourse, bleeding during or after intercourse, blisters or sores on your genitals, itch and a rash, pain when urinating or ejaculating, painful testicles.
If you have a new sexual partner it is important that you are both screened for sexually transmitted infections before you stop using condoms. Having sex without a condom until you know that you are both clear from STI’s puts both of you at risk. It is important to practice safe sex and to ensure that both of your test results are back and clear before stopping condom use. It is important that you ensure you are using another form of contraception before stopping a barrier method.
If you were thinking of starting a family then having a sexual health screen would be an important step. This would ensure that you are both clear from infections before stopping contraception/condom use. Mother’s are routinely screened for a variety of infections in early pregnancy but having this done beforehand would help to stop some uncommon but important infection’s being transmitted to the baby.
If you have found out that your current or a previous sexual partner has a sexually transmitted infection then it would be important to be tested even if you have no symptoms. It does not necessarily mean that you will have a positive result but it is safer to be tested.
What is involved in a Sexual Health Screening?
You will have a full detailed consultation in complete confidence with a doctor who will ask questions about your sexual activity. All Doctor’s at the International Medical Clinic (IMC) are experienced in treating sexually transmitted infections.
Some questions your Doctor may ask include:
- Do you have any concerns regarding STI’s and why?
- Do you currently have any symptoms?
- Do you have intercourse with partners of the same gender, different or both?
- Do you use contraception? (Condom use)
- Do you have more than one partner?
- What types of sex do you have (vaginal, oral, anal)?
- When was your last sexual encounter and did you use condoms?
- Do you pay for sex?
- Do you inject drugs or have slept with anyone using intra-venous drugs?
This is just an example of some of the questions asked and at times they may not be relevant to you but it is important that these are asked to ensure that each patient has the opportunity to discuss in full what there current concerns are.
Screening will depend on your symptoms and the type of sexual contact you have had.
Examples of screening include:
- Examination of your genitals. Some STI’s are often diagnosed clinically such as genital warts and genital herpes.
- Swabs- taken from your vagina, penis, throat or rectum.
- Urine sample
- Blood sample
The consultation and examination will vary depending on your history but could last between 15 -45minutes. The doctor will explain when and how you will get the results. You may be able to receive them by phone/email or you may be asked to return to the clinic.
What can the tests detect?
Sexual Health Screenings can pick up infections that are sexually transmitted and other infections that are not sexually transmitted.
The main infections tested for include:
- Trichomonas vaginalis
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Hepatitis B
- Herpes serology (if symptomatic)
Treatment will depend on your results, most sexually transmitted infections can be cured or managed effectively. Your doctor will fully discuss your treatment options and ensure appropriate follow up. Sometimes repeat testing is required at a later date if certain conditions are detected.
How soon do results come back?
Some sexually transmitted infections can be diagnosed during the consultation such as genital herpes and genital warts. Others can take a few days for results to return and in some cases a few weeks.
It can be distressing being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection and can often have an impact on current and past relationships. Your doctor can counsel you throughout the process and advise you on support networks available. Contacting previous partners that could have been affected is important to try and stop the spread to others. It is important regardless of your test results that you continue to think about your sexual health and appropriate protection be used in the future.
Dr Heather King is based at IMC Camden, if you would like an appointment with Dr Heather, please call or 6733 4440 or book online: www.imc-healthcare.com.