In life, we always set benchmarks. Whether it’s the personal best for reps in a gym session or number of consecutive episodes in a Netflix binge, we set our own standards of living.
For many guys, adding regular HIV/STI testing into your health routine is a great way of being at your best! If you test regularly, you get to spend more time enjoying your sex life and less time stressing about your status. So what are the steps to a HIV and STI test? Let’s take a look.
Step 1: Find out where to get a test
Across NSW, you can get tested in a range of places such as sexual health clinics, at the doctor’s/GP, or in some community-based testing sites like a[TEST] which is trans-welcoming and requires no Medicare.
You can find testing sites near you using our where to get tested tool here.
If you can’t travel or get to a testing location easily, you should consider ordering a DBS (Dried Blood Spot) kit to your home. Starting in 2017, DBS testing became available in NSW, which is a great way to test for HIV without having to physically go into a clinic or GP. You can find out more about DBS and ordering a kit here.
Step 2: Book your test
While some clinics accept walk-in clients, other sites may require you to make an appointment. Remember, if you have time to schedule ‘D’ appointments, then you also have time to schedule your testing appointments. Feel free to put both in the calendar!
Step 3: Get tested for HIV and STIs
So you’ve made it to your testing site of choice, but now you are wondering what next. Here’s what should be included in a comprehensive HIV and STI screen.
Blood test (HIV and syphilis)
Testing for HIV is either done through a rapid HIV test, which usually involves a small prick of a finger and results within thirty minutes, or through a standard blood test. The rapid HIV test is great because you can know your status in a short amount of time, compared to the few days to one-week period other STI tests can take to come back with results.
However, rapid HIV testing is not available everywhere, so that’s why it might be more usual to receive a full blood test for HIV. This is done by taking a sample of blood from the arm, which is then sent to a laboratory to test for HIV antibodies and the p24 antigen (something that indicates HIV’s presence in the body).
Additionally, the blood samples taken can also be used to test for syphilis. Syphilis is common amongst gay men, in particular those who may have a high number of sexual partners, who are into group sex, sharing sex toys or fisting, and men who are HIV positive.
Whatever the kink, testing for syphilis is a good idea.
Mouth swab (chlamydia and gonorrhoea)
Open sesame! That’s right, next up is a mouth swab which tests for chlamydia and gonorrhoea in the throat. This swab is normally administered by your doctor or nurse, during which they’ll ask you to say ahhhhh and brush the swab around the back of your throat. It may make your eyes water a little, but maybe that’s a familiar sensation anyway.
Butt swab (chlamydia and gonorrhoea)
‘But wait’, you might say, ‘I’ve already tested for chlamydia and gonorrhoea’. And you would be correct, except chlamydia and gonorrhoea are particularly good at hanging out in different parts of the body, including your throat, arse (butt) or cock/front-hole.
The bum swab is usually self-administered, which means you get given the swab, head to a toilet to stick it into your anal passage (about 2 cm) and twirl it around a bit before placing it back in a specimen tube.
Urine sample (chlamydia)
Ready, aim, fire! The urine sample, which tests for chlamydia, requires nothing short of precision peeing. Play your liquids right and make sure you’re not on empty when it comes time to let it flow.
You should also leave about a 20-minute gap after last peeing before off-loading your sample. At the end of this process you’ll not only have a warm cup of golden brew ready to be tested, but also an intimate understanding of how important your kegel exercise is for not peeing all over yourself.
Step 4: Results
How long you should wait for results will depend on where you get tested and the types of tests you’ve had. At the end of your appointment you should ask the nurse, doctor or pathologist how long to wait before expecting results. Then you can be on your merry way.
Some testing sites will contact you with the results either through a phone call or text message, but if you don’t hear from them, in most instances you should be able to get in contact within 1-2 weeks and enquire about your results.
Keep in mind many sexual health clinics also have a ‘no news is good news’ policy, where they won’t contact you if results were negative for the STIs you were screened for.
Step 5: Remind yourself to test again
You’ve done it; you’ve gone through all the steps to get tested and have your results. Maybe you found out you had an STI and therefore need to take a break from sex, or maybe you didn’t. Either way you should consider setting yourself a reminder for your next test.
Testing frequently is a key part of reducing your chance of HIV and the risk of passing STIs onto your partners, and let’s face it, we’re human and we can forget things/birthdays/the lyrics to a lip sync. You can find out how frequently to test with our calculator here, and you can set yourself a reminder to get your next test with our handy remind me tool here.
And that’s all there is to it! Add regular testing into your repertoire, take control of your health and keep at your best.