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 look at what testing in regional NSW can look like and some tips to make it easier.
Find out where to get a test for HIV and STIs
Getting tested for HIV and STIs starts with finding a place near you that can offer a comprehensive sexual health screen, which involves testing for HIV and a range of STIs including 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 information guides, which include testing sites across NSW’s regional areas.
If the 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 feel anxious about going to a GP due to concerns around confidentiality, that’s 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 in the consultation room, you can also ask any questions related to sex, staying safe from HIV and STIs or even personal questions about your body. It’s all confidential!
Call and book your HIV and STI test 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 that 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; naturally, we will feel more open to some rather than others. While some smaller rural clinics may not be able to provide your preference, it can’t hurt to ask.
Further, if English is your second language and you 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 can also access an Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS), of which there are multiple available throughout NSW. You can find a list of sexual health clinics and AMS sites (all marked with Aboriginal Flags) here.
Waiting room worries
For some guys living in tight-knit communities, being spotted or recognised in a sexual health clinic is a genuine concern. So when you call and book your appointment, you can mention any apprehension you are feeling to reception staff, and they may be able to offer advice about 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. Their support can make a huge difference to your experience, and being there at your request should not be an issue for most sites.
Getting tested for HIV and STIs
Before you arrive at your destination, there are a couple of things to consider. 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 up to four times a year while sexually active. You can use the testing calculator to work out how frequently you should be testing.
Receiving HIV and STI test results
Receiving HIV and STI test 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 about HIV and STI testing?
Do you still have questions about getting a HIV or STI 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!
(Hunter, New England, Central Coast, Central West)
ACON Hunter branch have a drop-in clinic that operates on Tuesday’s 3:30pm-6:00pm and Thursday’s 11:30am-6:00pm.
Find the clinic at the ACON Hunter Office:
129 Maitland Road
Tel: 02 4962 7700
ACON Northern Rivers
Suite 4P Conway Court,
17 Conway Street,
(next to Lismore Post Office and near Lismore Memorial Baths)
Tel: 02 6622 1555
ACON Southern, Far West & Blue Mountains Outreach
Tel: 02 9206 2114
Freecall: 1800 063 060