From the city to the suburbs, the coast to the outback testing, testing for HIV and STIs is easy, available and private
You might be forgiven for thinking it’s harder and vastly different to get tested for HIV and STIs in regional NSW compared to the larger cities, but you would also be wrong! There are many places you can get a regular check-up for HIV and STIs and the process is much the same as what you’d find in the big smoke. Let’s take a look at what testing in regional NSW can look like and some tips that can make it easier.
Find out where to get a test for HIV and STIs
Getting tested starts with finding a place near you that can offer a comprehensive sexual health screen, which involves testing for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhoea. These can be sexual health clinics, community-based testing sites or through a doctor (or General Practitioner).
Finding a place to get tested can be as simple as punching in your postcode into our Where to Get Tested tool, or you can have a look through a great set of regional community info guides, which include testing sites across NSW’s regional areas.
If distance is still a problem, another option could be to get a DBS (Dried Blood Spot) testing kit ordered to your home, where you can test for HIV without physically heading into a testing site and it’s free. Learn more about DBS here.
Confidentiality and HIV/STI testing
If you are feeling anxious about going to a GP due to concerns around confidentiality, that’s totally fair enough. Doctors and other staff who work in a general practice deal with different clients’ sensitive health information every day and be assured, they are legally required to keep that information confidential.
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 regular check-up. While you are in the consultation room you could also ask any questions you have related to sex, staying safe from HIV and STIs or even personal questions about your body. It’s all confidential!
Call and book ahead
Once you’ve found a site near you, make note of the opening hours as sometimes certain clinics will run only on certain days of the week. If you are ever unsure, it can work to your benefit to call ahead and ask.
When you call, most places will allow you to book an appointment. This will help make sure if, for example, you are driving a distance, you won’t be subject to waiting for the next free time slot, which could very well be hours away.
If you think you may feel more comfortable speaking with a male or a female doctor, then there’s nothing wrong with asking for one or the other. We’re all different and it’s natural that we will feel more open to some than others. Further, if English is your second language and would prefer to speak in your native tongue, check with the reception staff if there’s a doctor who speaks the same language.
Aboriginal people also have the option of accessing an Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS), which are available throughout NSW. You can find a list of sexual health clinics and AMS sites (all marked with Aboriginal Flag) here.
Waiting room worries
For some guys who live in tight-knit communities, being spotted or recognised going into a sexual health clinic is a very real concern, so you can also take this opportunity to mention to reception staff that this is a cause of anxiety for you. They may be able to offer advice around entering the clinic discreetly or offer an appointment during a less busy period.
If you are struggling with anxiety when it comes to going to the clinic, another strategy could be to bring someone along with you. Having their support can make a huge difference to your experience and them being there at your request should not be an issue for most sites.
There are a couple of things to consider before you arrive at your destination. If you are attending a general practitioner, be prepared that they might not specialise in gay/bi men’s sexual health, so it’s a good idea to be ready to ask for a comprehensive sexual health screen and be your own advocate.
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
While your health professional will collect the blood and mouth swab samples, you also have the option to self-collect the bum swab. You’d usually do this at the same point when you head to the bathroom to collect the urine sample.
Remember that many STIs don’t show symptoms even when you have them, so the best way to know if you have any is to get tested at least twice a year while you are sexually active. You can use the testing calculator to work out how frequently you should be testing.
Receiving test results
Receiving results vary from site to site, but the best way to find out about how and when to expect your results is to ask during your visit. Many sexual health clinics offer free SMS or email notifications of your results, while some will call and deliver your results over the phone. Some may also only alert you if you’ve tested positive for an STI.
Depending on where you are and the tests you completed can also impact the turn-around of your results, but in most instances you should expect to wait about 1 week.
If you test positive for an STI you should take a break from having sex until you are treated.
And once you’ve received your results, it can also be a good idea to set a reminder for your next test, using our Remind Me service here.
Have some questions?
Do you still have questions about getting a test in your neighbourhood? ACON has a number of regional sites as well as an active regional outreach team who you can get in touch with directly!
129 Maitland Road
Tel: 02 4962 7700
Freecall: 1800 063 060
ACON Northern Rivers
27 Uralba Street
Tel: 02 6622 1555
Freecall: 1800 633 637
Port Macquarie Outreach
Tel: 0418 904 116
Coffs Harbour Outreach
Tel: 02 6651 6017
ACON Regional Outreach
Southern and Far West Regions
Tel: 02 9206 2114
Freecall: 1800 063 060