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Safe sex

Safe sex means caring for your own health and your partner’s health.

Unsafe sex may put you or your partner at risk of sexually transmissible infections (STIs) or result in an unplanned pregnancy.

How you can stay safe

  • Always use condoms if you have vaginal, oral or anal sex. Using condoms is the only method of contraception that protects against both STIs and pregnancy. Even if you’re using other contraception methods (like the pill or a diaphragm), always use condoms as well.
  • If you are having unprotected sex, talk to your partner about the risks involved. Your decision about safe sex is important—some STIs can be cured but some can’t (e.g. herpes), and you may not experience any initial symptoms.
  • Before having sex, talk about using condoms with your partner and come to an agreement about using condoms. Remember, you have the right to say NO if your partner does not agree to use condoms.
  • Never have sex (even with a condom) if your partner has a visible sore, ulcer or lump on their genitals,anal area or mouth. Suggest they see their doctor, family planning clinic or sexual health clinic.
  • STIs can be passed from one person to another by oral sex. If you put your mouth in contact with your partner’s penis, you need to use a condom to avoid STIs. If you put your mouth in contact with your partner’s anus or vulva (outside of vagina) while having sex, you need to use a dental dam (a thin latex square held over the vaginal or anal area during oral sex). This is especially important if you’ve got a cut or sore around your mouth or lips or bleeding gums.
  • STIs can also be transmitted if you use sex toys, so you need to be safe. Use condoms and change the condom for each person using the toys. Wash the toys carefully after use and wash your hands after removing the condom.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk to your partner about sex.
  • Never re-use condoms or dental dams.

Sexual health checks

A sexual health check is a check-up by a doctor, nurse or other health worker with a focus on sexual health. You do not need to be experiencing symptoms to have a check-up. There are a number of STIs which often cause no symptoms (e.g. chlamydia).

When to have a check

How often and when you need to have a check-up depends on your lifestyle and sexual activity. At a minimum, we recommend annual sexual health checks for sexually active gay men, young people and people with different sexual partners.

All sexually active women should have a Pap smear at least every 2 years.

A sexual health check is advisable if you:

  • think you may have an STI
  • have had unsafe sex with casual partners (unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex)
  • have had a condom break or fall off during sex
  • are starting a new sexual relationship or have different regular or casual partners
  • want to talk about safe sex, even if you are not sexually active
  • want to talk about preventing pregnancy
  • have been sexually assaulted.

During a sexual health check

You will be seen by a health professional, who will ask you about your sexual histroy, which may include questions about:

  • your sexual orientation (eg. straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual) or gender identity (transgender)
  • number of sexual partners
  • sexual practices
  • if you have any STI symptoms
  • if you have injected drugs
  • if you have tattoos or body piercing.

This information is confidential and it is a good opportunity for you to ask any questions about your sexual health that might have been worrying you.

Your sexual health information is protected and subject to strict privacy rules.

After taking your history, the doctor or nurse will examine your external genital area and possibly inside your mouth, vagina or anus for any signs of STIs. They may take a swab, urine sample or blood test if further testing is needed. For women, the vagina and cervix may also be examined for any signs of an STI and a Pap smear may be taken, if necessary.

A sexual health check may include:

  • talking about your sex life, including sexual orientation and the number of sexual partners
  • talking about safe sex and using condoms
  • talking about birth control (preventing pregnancy)
  • having a Pap smear (women)
  • asking questions about sexuality and sexual health
  • getting safer sex supplies and written information.

Visit your general practitioner (GP) or a sexual health clinic to get a sexual health check.

Watch an animated movie about visiting a sexual health clinic.

Chlamydia home test kits

If you are a Queensland resident, you can order a free, safe and simple test for chlamydia. You collect a urine sample at home using the kit, mail it back for testing, and you will be contacted with your results.

To order a kit, complete the online form or call 1800 895 544.

Emergency help and advice

If you have concerns about your sexual health, had unprotected sex or a possible exposure to an STI, you can talk to your:

Emergency contraception can be used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex.

Exposure to HIV or Hepatitis B

If you have had unsafe sex, have shared drug injecting equipment or have had a needlestick injury, you may have been exposed to HIV and/or Hepatitis B infection. 

You may be able to protect yourself with post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

Needlestick injury

If you have had a needlestick injury, go to your nearest emergency department.

Sexual assault

If you have been sexually assaulted recently or in the past and would like help, there are a range of services available to help you.

13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84)

Get health advice from a registered nurse over the phone—24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Find out more.

HIV Foundation Queensland

The HIV Foundation Queensland works to reduce HIV transmission in Queensland through prevention programs,  increasing voluntary HIV testing, increasing treatment  and raising awareness about HIV transmission, stigma and discrimination.

Help make HIV history

After 30 years, HIV continues to rise in Queensland. That can end today.

Let’s end 30 years of HIV.

Licence
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0)
Last updated
6 January 2016

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