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There is no such thing as a stupid question. Every question is valid and reasonable. Here are some examples of the kinds of questions we are asked on a regular basis about STI’s.

Q – Is it only people who sleep around that catch STI’s?
No. You can contract and STI the very first time you have sexual contact with someone. It’s not about how much you do it, it’s more about how you do it.

Q – Surely I would know if I had an STI?
No. Not necessarily. Most STI’s have no visible symptoms, many STI’s are slow working and some STI’s look and feel like spots or blisters that we all get from time to time.

Q – If my partner had an STI, I would have noticed wouldn’t I?
No. Not necessarily. Sometimes when we get sexy with someone we might be a little drunk, sometimes we keep the light off, you will not always know if they have an STI. Often with STI’s there are no symptoms, so the only way to know your or anyone else’s sexual health status is by getting screened.

Q – I have already had an STI, I can’t get another one can I?
Yes you can. Some STI’s you can contract over and over again. Some STI’s once you have them you can never get rid of them.

Q – Look I got a positive diagnosis and treatment for Chlamydia from my doctor. I know I can’t have another STI, can I?
Having one STI makes you more vulnerable to every other STI you come into contact with. Doctors often do not have the facility to test for all the STI’s that can be tested for at the STI Clinic. Chlamydia can be contracted again and again. Unless your sexual partner(s) have also been treated it is possible to re-infect. Unless you get a full sexual health screen you will never know.

Q – I always use contraception, I can’t have an STI can I?
Contraception (pill, patch, coil, etc) will not protect you from any STI’s unless you are using a condom or female condom. Contraception, when used correctly, only prevents pregnancy.

Q – But I use condoms so there is no way I need a test is there?
Did you always use condoms? Often we have experience of risking sex once or twice without one. Unfortunately even if you have always used condoms there are some STI’s that can still be contracted as they can be passed in vaginal fluid, semen, faeces(shit) on the hand or mouth. There are some STI’s that can be passed through skin to skin contact and a condom only covers the head and shaft of the penis so it might still be possible to contract and STI if you are using a condom.

Q – It’s only thrush, I get it loads, I don’t need a check up do I?
Unless you are tested for thrush and receive a positive diagnosis it might be something else. A lot of STI’s have similar symptoms and regular recurrence of thrush would lower your ability to fight off any other STI’s you come into contact with.

Q – I had a spot on my penis, but it went away. Do I need testing?
That depends on if you have had sexual contact with anyone. If you have not had sexual contact with anyone then your spot is probably just a spot but you might like to get checked out by an STI doctor just to ease your mind. If you have had sexual contact with someone then you may need a full sexual health screen because a spot that goes away is a symptom of syphilis.

Q – My girlfriend vagina smells a bit sometimes, has she got something?
Unless she has had a full sexual health screen and maintained her sexual health status since there is no way to tell. There are a few STI’s that can cause an unusual smell but they are easily cleared up. Sometimes it’s just sweat, sometimes clothing is too tight. Women tend to have a stronger smell when they are on their periods. If you are worried why not talk to her about it.

Q – My sexual partner had a cold sore and gave me oral sex. Can I catch herpes?
Yes it is possible. The genital herpes virus is a slightly different strain of herpes than the strain that causes cold sores. The type we get on our mouths can live on the genitals, and vice versa.

Q – I am a lesbian and I have never had sex with a man, I can’t catch anything can I?
This is untrue. Most STI’s including HIV can be contracted woman to woman. Although the risk is in most cases very low, there is still a risk. Chlamydia is a good example of an STI that is often transmitted within lesbian relationships.

Q – I have been married most of my life and want to start sexual relationships with other people now my marriage has ended. Do I have to get tested?
It’s always a good idea to know what your sexual health status is, especially if you have never had a sexual health screen. It is only really of value if the person you are having sexual contact with has also been screened. Make sure you have a conversation about sexual history and sexual health with anyone you are thinking of having sex with, so you can maintain your sexual health after your have been screened. Remember, it is your right to insist on using condoms or female condoms as you wish.