Sex between men can be fun, vibrant and steamy, however, it should also be safe. While using condoms and being open and honest with sexual partners is a great step towards this goal, a powerful tool in the safe sex repertoire of the gay community is regular Sexually Transmitted Infection “STI” checks. STIs are sexually transmitted diseases caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites that can be passed between sexual partners through contact with bodily fluids and infected areas.
Often they can have no symptoms and can cause a number of long-term health issues such as depressed immune systems, infertility, and erectile dysfunction.
Therefore, to stay free of anxiety and ensure that you are protected from disease anybody who is sexually active should have annual check-ups for common STIs.
Leading STIs include chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, herpes, HPV, syphilis, and trichomoniasis.
While the general impression is that STI checks are painful, long or expensive, modern medical practices have made them easy, accessible, quick and gay-friendly. The majority of STIs can be checked through a simple urine or blood sample, or a swab of the infected area:
- Chlamydia: Swab of genital or urine sample.
- Gonorrhea: Swab of genital or urine sample.
- Genital herpes: Swab of affected area if symptoms are present, if not present a blood test.
- Syphilis: Blood test or samples from a sore.
- Trichomoniasis: Swab of the infected area, physical exam or sample of discharge.
- HPV: Visual diagnosis.
Getting tested for HIV has become even easier, clinics have been set up around New South Wales for men who have sex with men for free HIV testing. These tests are confidential and results can be released to you within 30 minutes of taking a test!
You can even set up a reminder to take the test every 6 months, or every 3 months if you have more than 10 partners in a 6 month period or are actively engaging in sex without a condom. HIV tests can be a blood test or swab from the inside of the mouth.
All of these STI can usually be checked at your normal medical center. A test for all seven of these common STIs can take as little as 15 minutes at the doctor and most practices in Australia can bulk bill the session, meaning that the government will pay the total cost of the STI checks.
It’s free, it’s simple and it’s quick, meaning there really is no excuse not to do it!
It is also very important to engage in a conversation with your partners about your STI status and the last time you were tested. This allows you to make informed choices about how you might approach sex with your partner, the importance of using a condom and even personal preferences. Plus, it is always easier to do something when the experience is shared. So an open, honest dialogue based on trust can be a great way to understand the position of each person and discuss what you can do to make your sex safe and fun!