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Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby! Here’s What Aussies Think About STI Testing

1 in 6 Aussies will have a run-in with an STI. When was the last time you got tested?

Let’s talk about sex, baby.

In partnership with the Department of Health and Aged Care

Picture this. You’re at your favourite music festival with nothing more to worry about than drifting from stage to stage, calculating how you’re going to fit in every amazing act you want to see, and let’s face it, probably regretting the open toe sandals you chose that morning. 

Truth is, while we’re out having fun, sexually transmissible infections (STIs) are the last thing on our minds. Unfortunately, sexual health is a topic that, despite its importance, often gets glossed over or downright avoided. But the reality is, if you’re sexually active, STI prevention is something you should be thinking about. 

To spread the word, the Rolling Stone crew hit up an Aussie festival to talk about all things sex with Editor-in-Chief, Poppy Reid, on the ground to find out how folks really feel about sexual health, protection and testing. 

From knowing STI symptoms, to normalising chatting to mates and sex partners about testing, there’s still a lot to understand about safe sex, both from a medical and social perspective. 

1 in 6 Australians will get an STI in their lifetime. That’s a pretty big number. But perhaps most concerning is often STIs don’t show symptoms, which means you could have an STI without knowing it. What’s so bad about STIs if they don’t even show symptoms, you might ask? Well, if STIs are untreated, they can lead to all sorts of serious health problems, from infertility and chronic pain, permanent disability such as blindness, even dementia or death. Plus, you could be passing STIs onto other people without knowing. With syphilis, gonorrhoea and chlamydia leading the charts as the country’s three most common STIs, the prevalence is strikingly high among under-34s.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The good news is most STIs are preventable by practising safe sex, and all STIs are treatable. The important thing is early detection by STI testing. 

What we learned from festival-goers was both enlightening and hopeful. The atmosphere of openness and acceptance made it easier for people to share their thoughts and experiences about their own sexual health. 

It turns out, the Aussies we spoke to are pretty well-informed about safe sex. Discussions around consent, communication and the importance of regular STI testing took centre stage. And what is sometimes perceived as an uncomfortable, scary or embarrassing conversation, seemed not only necessary, but totally normal. 

The sentiment was unanimous – STI testing should be seen as a routine part of healthcare, akin to a regular check-up, stripping away the stigma and fear associated with it. Here are three important lessons we learned from the people we talked to.   

1. Get Tested Before Getting Intimate

STI testing is the test bit before the best bit – we call it ‘Beforeplay’. It’s the only way to know for sure if you have an STI, which makes it super important to keep on top of. Testing is also the best way to prevent the spread of STIs, and ensure infections are treated quickly, before they have a chance to turn into more serious health issues. 

According to festival goers, STI testing is a no-brainer. So take it as a sign. If they’re up for it, so should you. Make STI testing your ‘Beforeplay’, use protection and find out where you can book a check-up at health.gov.au/STI before you plan to get intimate. 

“Better safe than sorry!” one woman said. Say it louder for the people up the back!  

2. Positive Testing, Without Testing Positive

Yes, yes, yes. Testing not only keeps you and your partner safe, it should also be seen as a positive experience. After all, there’s nothing sexier than someone who’s into maintaining their sexual health as much as they’re into you.

Plus in Australia, we’re lucky to have a system that makes testing a simple and accessible process. You can get an STI test through your local GP, a sexual health clinic, Medicare Urgent Care Clinic, or community health centres like an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation. If you’re nervous, remember healthcare professionals talk about sexual health everyday. 

“Testing should be a positive thing, and it should be talked about,” one person shared. Stigma, be gone. 

3. Start Talking

No surprises here. As with many things in life, communication is key and knowledge is power. This is especially true when it comes to your body and your sexual health. So, whether you’re in a casual or long term relationship, start by opening up the conversation before getting intimate. It can be as simple as saying, “I’m getting tested, how do you feel about getting tested too?”. 

You heard it here first – conversations about sexual health shouldn’t be sidelined or whispered about in the shadows. In fact, they can be as open and natural as discussing your favourite song. 

Use protection and book your sexual health check-up today. Visit health.gov.au/STI for more info.

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