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Safe sex

Part of maintaining good sexual health is having safe sex. This means taking precautions to protect yourself and your sexual partner both physically and emotionally. You can reduce your risk of contracting or passing on sexually transmissible infections (STIs) or blood borne viruses (such as HIV or hepatitis), while ensuring you’re not pressuring a sexual partner about how or whether the sex happens.

Using protection

The most effective way you can practice safe sex is to use a condom with water-based lubricant when having vaginal and anal sex, or a condom/dental dam when having oral sex. Using a condom is the only method of contraception that helps to protect against both STIs and pregnancy.

Only use condoms made by a reputable brand and check they haven’t passed the expiry date. If you’re using sex toys, it’s a good idea to use a condom and lubricant on them and wash the toys between use.

PrEP is another form of protection for HIV; however it does not prevent other STIs or pregnancy.

PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. It’s a pill that is taken daily by HIV negative people to prevent HIV. Taking PrEP before being exposed to HIV means there is enough drug in your system to stop HIV if it gets into your body. If PrEP is taken as prescribed, it is almost 100% effective.

Once you are clear about your own views about using protection, it’s good if you can talk to your partner about it to make sure you are both on the same page before you have sex.

Consent

Every time you have sex, it’s important to have your partner’s enthusiastic consent, and that you give yours too. Being informed about consent, the right to say no and the need to respect another person’s wishes is explained in this animation by Blue Seat Studios—Tea and consent about consent being as simple as tea. Other sources of information about communication and sexual consent are available online.

Sexual health checks

Having regular sexual health checks is another important part of maintaining good sexual health. Many STIs do not have symptoms, so the only way to know if you have an STI is to have a sexual health check, including STI testing.

It’s a good idea to have a sexual health check every year. It’s also recommended that you get an STI test after having unprotected sex, if a previous or current sexual partner tells you they have an STI, or when starting a new sexual relationship. A doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional can perform sexual health checks.

What to expect during a sexual health check

During a sexual health check your healthcare professional will ask about your sexual history, which may include questions about:

  • sexual orientation and gender identity
  • sexual partners
  • sexual practices
  • STI symptoms
  • injecting or other drug use
  • tattoos and body piercing.

Sexual health information is confidential and subject to strict privacy rules. What you disclose during your appointment will be kept private.

Your doctor or nurse may suggest a sexual health examination. They will examine the genital area, cervix, anus or mouth for signs of STIs. They may suggest a swab, urine sample or blood test if further testing is required. There is often the option to collect the swab sample yourself if you prefer. A cervical screening test may be offered as well.

Free chlamydia and gonorrhoea test (Webtest)

Getting a sexual health check at a GP or sexual health clinic, Aboriginal Medical Service, or some community-based testing sites is the best option. Queenslanders 16 years and older who can’t go to a health service can order a free chlamydia and gonorrhoea urine test online through 13 HEALTH Webtest.

You can order a Webtest online, provide a urine sample and receive the results confidentially by email, SMS or phone.

Webtest will not detect an infection until 2 weeks after exposure and cannot detect:

  • chlamydia and gonorrhoea in other parts of your body, such as the throat or rectum
  • other STIs such as syphilis, HIV or genital herpes
  • sexual or reproductive health issues.

Emergency help and advice

If you have been impacted by sexual assault and would like help, there are a range of services available to help you.

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

If you have had unprotected sex, have shared injecting equipment or have had a needlestick injury, you may be able to protect yourself from HIV with post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

These services are confidential and should be able to give advice about both STIs and emergency contraception: