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Wondering what an STI test is like? A firsthand experience from an international student.

Did you know that sexually transmissible infections (STIs) are super common and can affect anyone who’s ever had unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex? It’s true!

Many STIs have no symptoms and if left untreated, can cause long-term health impacts. That’s why it’s so important to get tested because you may not even know you have one.

STI testing is a normal and important part of a healthy sex life. The good news is that most STIs are quick to test for and easy to treat.

An international students’ experience…

Trying to figure out health services (let alone sexual health services!) in a new country can be confusing for some international students. We asked an international student to share their experience of getting an STI test in NSW. Read on about their thoughts and how they felt when they first had an STI test.

I grew up in a conservative country, Myanmar, where the topic of sex and sexual health wasn’t talked about or taught in school. It was all very new to me when I first got to Sydney. The only kind of knowledge on “sex ed” I had, came from biology textbooks and the good old internet. When I first got here, I didn’t know that I should be getting tested for STIs if I was having sex, let alone when or where to go to for a STI test.

Back in 2019, during UNSW O-Week, I came across this stall that was giving out free condoms. My friends and I being curious little 1st year students approached the stall. We met some lovely volunteers, spoke about safe sexual and sexual health, and played some games. It was only then I learnt about getting tested and that we can even do it on campus.

I knew I needed an STI test, but I felt awkward about it and put it at the bottom of my to-do list. After a few weeks of procrastination, I finally decided to check out the university health website and made an appointment to see a GP. I decided to go to the same GP where I had been before for some vaccines.

The day finally came. After a bit of a nerve-wracking wait in the waiting room, I went in to see my GP. She asked how she could help, and I told her I wanted an STI test. She then asked about the kind of sex I was having, if I was using any kind of protection (condoms or oral dams), how many partners I’ d had and what gender they were.

At first, I felt a little bit embarrassed answering these questions, but it was actually fine. After all, doctors are trained to have these confidential conversations and they probably have these nitty gritty conversations multiple times a day. My advice would be to be honest when answering these questions. They aren’t there to judge you; it is just to make sure you have the right kind of tests.

There are different STI tests they can ask you to take: urine, blood or swabs depending on your risk. It’s mostly just peeing in a cup – nothing scary to it. The time of the actual consult and the test will likely take less time than waiting in the waiting room.

The doctor might ask you to make another appointment for the results, but most clinics practice a “no news is good news” policy, where they might not call you if your test results come back negative (meaning you don’t have an STI). The results usually take from 4 to 7 business days (or more). If the results come back positive (meaning you DO have an STI), you don’t need to worry. STIs are common and they can be treated.

STI tests are usually free under your Overseas Student Health Cover if your GP provides a bulk billing service. You can find more information about your provider here.

Getting an STI test is just a part of being an adult. As an international student, there are many resources to help us be more informed about our health and sexual health. Remember that getting tested for STIs is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a responsible step towards taking care of our health and the health of our sexual partners.

How to book an STI test…  

The best place to get tested is at your doctor, where you’ll need to phone and book an appointment first. There’s no need to be embarrassed or nervous – STI tests are just a normal part of keeping healthy when you’re having sex. Plus, your doctor will just be happy that you’re taking control of your health.

Remember, your results are also completely confidential.

You can get an also get an STI test at some sexual health clinics in NSW, family planning service and some youth health clinics. Find your nearest location here or call the Sexual Health Infolink for free on 1800 451 624 for more information or to find a local service.

When to get tested…

You should get tested:

  • Every 6 to 12 months if you are sexually active (STIs normally don’t show any symptoms).
  • If you change partners.
  • If you have any symptoms or when the condom breaks.

Do you have questions about sexual health? Why not join the conversation on the Play Safe sex and relationship forum or ask Nurse Nettie a question. Or find out more about STI testing and STI treatment in Sydney and NSW.