Getting tested with a GP

What to consider when testing for HIV with a GP

Can you remember the last time someone got your coffee order wrong? Maybe it was a bit loud, and they misheard you and assumed. Perhaps the barista said they knew your order only to get it wrong. Similarly, when you head to the GP, being sure of your ‘testing order’ and what you can expect ahead of your visit can smooth the way and help you get a better experience.

Let us take you through the process of getting tested with a GP, from finding a doctor to knowing what to ask for and receiving your results.

Before you book

Before booking, there are a couple of things you can do to help you have a good testing experience.

Find a doctor that you feel comfortable speaking with

If you’re living in an area that isn’t near a sexual health clinic, you will need to find a GP you feel comfortable speaking with when it comes time to test.

To get the best care, disclosing the type of sex you have and who your partners are to your GP is necessary. So, it’s good to find a GP you feel comfortable sharing this information with.

First, you might like to ask your friends or sexual partners if they have any personal recommendations for a queer-friendly GP in your area.

A queer-friendly Facebook group could also be another place to look for queer-friendly GP recommendations, especially if they have meetups in your area. Some groups will also allow you to share questions anonymously, in case you want to keep it discreet.

If you don’t have any recommendations, another strategy could be to call the GP practice before booking and ask if they have any LGBT+ clients or if any of their doctors have experience with sexual health testing and gauge their responses. If they respond with positive-sounding answers, this could indicate that you’ve found a queer-friendly GP.

If their responses seem less certain or unsure, you don’t have to book in. It’s good to remember that confidentiality protects your visits to the GP. Discussions around sex and sexually transmitted infections happen one-on-one within the privacy of a consultation room, and you don’t need to disclose the reason for your visit to reception staff beyond requesting a health check-up.

Medical professionals are legally required to keep your health information private. However, it’s reasonable to be concerned about how they may take it and whether or not your sexuality might get back to your extended family or other community networks.

Some people prefer to travel to a different area to see a sexual health clinic or different GP to avoid this. It may even be possible to have follow-up appointments via telehealth, eliminating the need to travel to receive your results if your tests return negative.

Consider the cost

The good news is that some guys can get tested at the GP for free! For this to happen, you have access to a bulk billing GP and Medicare. This means Medicare will cover the cost of your consultation and any tests – just remember to bring your card!

Some GPs have private billing arrangements, which means that while Medicare covers part of the cost of the visit, the remainder needs to be paid by you. Some people’s private health insurance can help out here – but you’ll need to check that with your insurer.

It’s always best to call ahead or check out their website to see what billing arrangements are in place so you aren’t stuck with any surprises at the end of your appointment.

If you don’t have access to Medicare, then you should consider both the cost of the consult with the doctor and the cost of the tests. If you have private health insurance, it might be possible to claim back some of the expense. However, many guys choose to visit public sexual health clinics to avoid these extra costs.

At the GP

You’ve made it through the doors, and now you’ve got to bring up what you’re here for!

How to bring up HIV and STI testing

Once you’re seated in front of your GP, it can be as simple as saying you’re looking for a sexual health screen.

GPs who have experience with sexual health testing will know to ask you for information about the types of sex you are having and your partners so they can look at the clinical guidelines and give you the right tests.

Some doctors are less familiar with sexual health testing. But rest assured, they can still provide it! If they haven’t asked, you can share that information yourself and say that you want to get tested for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhoea.

You might also like to print off and give this Australian HIV & STI guideline to your GP, which details the recommended tests for gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men who aren’t experiencing any symptoms.

What tests should you expect as part of a comprehensive sexual health checkup?

The comprehensive sexual health screen for gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men should involve a:

  • Blood test for HIV and syphilis
  • Bum swab for chlamydia and gonorrhoea
  • Mouth swab for chlamydia and gonorrhoea
  • Urine sample for chlamydia

Some GP practices may have a pathology attached, and others will give you the form and direct you to find a pathology to collect the testing samples there.

Blood tests and mouth swabs are routinely taken by pathology or nursing staff, but you can self-collect the bum swab and urine sample.

Before leaving, ask how you will receive the results

Sometimes, when you’ve bared your soul and spoken about your sexual practices with a relative stranger, it can be easy to forget to ask how you should expect to hear about your testing results.

A lot of GPs will ask you to book a follow-up consult after about a week, and they will discuss them with you in person, or some can provide it via a quick telehealth call. Whatever it is, it’s always easier to ask before you leave.

In the instance that your tests come back positive for an STI, your GP will get in touch to arrange an appointment and provide treatment. They can also answer any questions about the STI and advise on letting your partners know about your STI result.

That’s all there is to it! If you’re getting tested at a GP for the first time, rest assured that many guys get tested this way every three months to get their PrEP scripts – so you won’t be the first. We hope you have a good experience!