Got questions about STIs, STDs and where to get tested? A clinical sexologist has the answers.
Sexual health can be a difficult topic to bring up with your partner. But couples need to understand the risks associated with unprotected sex and the importance of getting tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). That’s why we’re here to talk about all that, plus how to engage in safe sex practices and where to go for a sexual health checkup in Singapore. Read on for all the answers to your burning questions.
1. What are STIs?
These are infections passed from one person to another through sexual contact. They can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Examples of common STIs include chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, HIV, genital herpes, and genital warts.
2. What’s the difference between STIs and STDs?
Often used interchangeably, they’re actually two different terms. STIs refer to infections that are spread through sexual contact, while STDs refer to diseases that can be caused by an STI. So all STDs start off as STIs, but not all STIs develop into STDs. For example, HIV is an STI that can lead to AIDS, which is an STD.
3. What are some common symptoms of STIs?
They vary depending on the infection but can include abnormal genital discharge, pain during urination, pain in the lower abdomen, sores on the genitals or mouth, an itching or burning sensation in the genital area, swollen lymph nodes, fever, and rashes. The window period for each STI also varies, ranging from one to three weeks for chlamydia to three months for HPV.
Treatment for these STIs typically involves antibiotics or antiviral medications. In the case of HIV, treatment includes antiretroviral therapy (ART), which is a combination of medications to reduce the amount of virus in the body. Vaccines are also available to help prevent infection with certain STIs such as HPV. It’s important to practice safe sex to reduce the risk of contracting an STI.
4. How can I practice safer sex?
Condoms are the most effective way to prevent the spread of STIs, and dental dams should be used during oral sex. It’s important to get tested regularly and have an honest conversation with your partner about the risks associated with unprotected sex. Sexually active individuals are recommended to get tested for STIs at least once a year, or more frequently if they have multiple partners.
Limiting your number of sex partners, using lubricant, and avoiding sharing sex toys can also help reduce your risk of contracting an STI. Vaccines are available for some STIs, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about which ones are right for you. Finally, abstinence is the only surefire way to avoid contracting an STI.
5. I’m embarrassed to go for an STD or STI test in Singapore. How can I overcome that?
Remind yourself that you’re taking a responsible step to protect your health and the health of your partner(s). Talk to your doctor or nurse about any concerns or questions you have. Ask for information about the tests and what the results mean. Healthcare providers are trained professionals and they’ve pretty much seen it all before, so you don’t have to feel awkward or uncomfortable.
6. How do I talk to my partner about their sexual health status?
You can ask questions such as, “Have you ever been tested for any STDs or STIs?” or “What can we do to make sure we’re both safe and healthy when we’re having sex?” This will ensure you can make informed decisions about your sexual activities.
7. I’m not sure how to ask my partner to get tested…
This is important to ensure both your safety and security. Try these gentle prompts to bring up the topic: “I think it’s important for us to do a sexual health screening. Would you go with me?” or “I want to make sure we both feel safe and secure, so let’s get tested together.”
If your partner claims they’re clean and careful, be respectful and understanding of their hesitation. Let them know you appreciate their efforts, but emphasise the importance of getting tested regularly. Express your desire to see the results so you can move forward with confidence. If they get angry or defensive, let them know you’re not accusing them. The routine check-up is to make sure you’re both healthy and safe. It’s simply a way to be proactive about your health.
8. What can I expect at a sexual health clinic?
You’ll find a safe, private, and confidential environment for you to discuss your concerns. The clinic will assess your sexual health by asking questions about your sexual history, any symptoms, and medications or treatments. Depending on your risk factors and symptoms, the clinic may recommend testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B and C.
If you test positive for an STI, the clinic may provide treatment or refer you to a specialist for further care. They can also offer education on sexual health topics such as contraception, safe sex practices, and STI prevention, or provide counselling to help you make informed decisions about your sexual health.
9. Where can I get tested for STDs or STIs in Singapore?
You can get a sexual health test at most GP clinics, public hospitals or polyclinics in Singapore. Try the DSC Clinic or visit private clinics such as Kensington Family Clinic, Dr Ben Medical and Atlas Pacific Medical. Organisations like Action for Aids Singapore provide anonymous HIV testing services too, or you can purchase an HIV self-testing kit to screen yourself in the privacy of your home.
Ultimately, safe sex is the best way to protect yourself and your partner from STIs and STDs. Talking openly and honestly about sexual health testing can be uncomfortable, but it’s essential for maintaining a healthy relationship. For more information on STIs, STDs and sexual health testing or emotional support, get in touch with a qualified relationship counsellor or clinical sexologist.