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If you’re sexually active, it’s important to keep an eye on your sexual health. The best way to do this is by having regular sexual health checks from your doctor or a sexual health nurse. Find out what’s involved, and where you can get a sexual health check.

This can help if:

  • you’re sexually active and you haven’t had a sexual health check recently (or ever!)
  • you think you might have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and need to see someone about it
  • you want to know what’s involved with getting a sexual health check.
Girl discussing things with counsellor

When to get a sexual health check

If you’re sexually active, it’s important to visit a doctor at least every six months to have sexual health checks, even if you feel nervous about it. Just remember that doctors and nurses talk about this kind of stuff all day, every day.

A sexual health check is really important if the following circumstances apply to you:

  • you think you might have an STI
  • you’ve recently had unprotected sex, including vaginal, oral or anal sex
  • a condom broke or fell off during sex
  • you or your partner has more than one sexual partner
  • you’ve shared injecting equipment (needles, etc.)
  • you’re at the start of a new sexual relationship.

What happens at a sexual health check?

At a sexual health check, you’ll be asked about your sex life, your body and your state of mind. Sexual health checks can involve tests – for example, for STIs (usually a blood or urine test), sexual dysfunction, and cervical cancer (for women). They also include discussions about:

  • contraception, including long-term contraception options
  • reproductive issues, such as fertility
  • your rights in sexual relationships
  • your feelings about sex.

The doctor will usually start by asking you some questions, such as:

  • how many sexual partners have you had?
  • what type of sexual activity do you engage in?
  • who do you have sex with (men, women or both)?
  • do you have any symptoms that could indicate a sexual health or reproductive problem?

A physical examination is also part of a sexual health check. With your permission, the doctor or nurse might:

  • examine your external genital area
  • take swabs of fluid or discharge on a cotton bud for examination under a microscope
  • ask you to provide a urine sample or blood test
  • for women, perform a vaginal examination, such as a pap smear (a swab on the cervix inside your vagina to test for signs of cervical cancer).

Is it always awkward?

Sexual health checks can be uncomfortable, awkward and embarrassing for you, but remember that for a doctor or health practitioner, these checks are a normal part of their job. Try to be honest and open, and trust that your doctor has heard it all before!

Your comfort and safety are important. If you feel that things are more uncomfortable than they should be, or that the doctor is doing or saying things that aren’t professional, you have the right to ask them to stop and to arrange to see a different doctor.

Finding a clinic

There are sexual health clinics all over the country. The Family Planning Alliance Australia website lists a number of services. You can also explore the sexual health sections of your state health website:

What can I do now?