Slept around on your holiday? Remember to get tested!
Using a condom and lubricant when having anal and vaginal sex with a penis is a good way to reduce the risk of transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STI:s). However, the condom doesn’t offer complete protection. If you’ve had new partners and/or are unsure of your own or your partner’s status, it’s good to get tested in all places where you’ve had sex (genitals, anus, throat), regardless of whether you’ve used a condom or not. For many STI:s, you can get tested and get a reliable result one week after possible transmission. If you’re getting tested for HIV, you can get a reliable result six weeks after possible transmission.
Below you find information about how testing is carried out, where you can get tested and what happens if you test positive for HIV or another STI. If you want free condoms and lubricant sent to your home, visit our profile Sexperterna on Facebook. Send a message labelled “Sommar” and we will send a kit with different condoms and lubricant to you promptly.
Why get tested?
To get tested is the only way to find out if you’re carrying HIV or another STI. Sometimes you can have clear symptoms, but not always. Thus, it’s a good idea to get tested regularly, regardless of if you have any symptoms of a STI or not. Carrying an untreated STI increases susceptibility to HIV and other STI:s. Most STI:s are easily treated with antibiotics, but in order to know that you are carrying a STI, you need to get tested. Getting tested and getting treatment for the STI:s that are covered by the Communicable Diseases Act is free. This applies to HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea and hepatitis infections.
Thanks to effective HIV medications, almost everyone who knows that they’re living with HIV today have a well functioning treatment. That means that the viral load in the blood is so low that it’s undetectable and that you cannot transmit HIV to someone else. You are then living with un-transmittable HIV. Most people who contract HIV contract it from someone who doesn’t know their HIV status. If you’re unsure of your own or your partner’s HIV status, it is therefore good to get tested.
Where can I get tested?
Young people can get tested at youth centres. The upper age limit of the youth centres varies but is usually around 23 or 25. All youth centres can be found at www.youmo.se.
In larger cities there’s usually a sexually transmitted infections centre, SESAM-centre, dermatological centre or other places that specializes in testing. You can also contact your regular health centre to get tested. In Stockholm and Gothenburg there are specialist centres for you who are a man and have sex with other men. In Stockholm there’s also a gynaecological centre for you who are a woman and have sex with other women and for you who are a trans person.
You’ll find your closest testing facility here: www.aidsmap.com/euhivtest
How does the testing work?
STI:s are transmitted through the contact between mucous membranes and between mucous membranes and certain bodily fluids like blood and sperm. Mucous membranes are located in the urethra, under the rim of the glans, at the inside of the foreskin (if you have foreskin), inside the vagina, in the throat and inside the anus. The testing is performed differently depending on what type of sex you’ve had and what STI:s you’re getting tested for. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are so called local infections. This means that they can be located in the genitals, the anus or the throat. Thus, if you’ve had anal sex with a penis you need to get tested with a swab in the anus, and if you’ve had oral sex with a penis you need to get tested with a swab in the throat. All health centres don’t do this, or know that this is needed, so you yourself might have to ask for these types of tests. To take a swab in the anus shouldn’t hurt. Taking a swab in the throat might tickle or be perceived as a little uncomfortable, but it only takes a couple of seconds. You usually don’t get the results right away; the test needs to be sent to a laboratory for analysis. Usually you get the results within one or two weeks. In some cases you only get the results if you’ve tested positive, but you can always contact the healthcare facility where you got tested and ask for the result. When you get tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia, you can usually get a reliable test result one week after possible transmission.
HIV, syphilis and hepatitis are tested through a blood test. There are two main types of HIV tests: lab test and rapid test. A lab test can give a reliable result six weeks after possible transmission and a rapid test can give a reliable result after eight weeks. If you’re worried, you can of course get tested earlier. A lab test is taken through a blood test from the bend of the arm that is sent for analysis at a lab. You usually get the results after a couple of days. A rapid test is taken through a few drops of blood from the finger and you often get the result after about 20 minutes. If you take a blood test from the bend of the arm to get tested for HIV you can ask the staff to test for syphilis and hepatitis infections in the same sample. Syphilis is on the increase in Sweden, especially among men who have sex with men, and therefore it’s a good idea to get tested for syphilis, especially if you are a man who has sex with men. Right now hepatitis A is also on the increase among men who have sex with men in Europe. Getting vaccinated against hepatitis A and B should be free for men who have sex with men in Sweden but it can vary between different county councils. Contact your closest infection clinic or health centre for more information.
What happens if I test positive?
If you get a positive test result for a STI that is covered by the Communicable Diseases Act (HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea and hepatitis) you need to take part in a so-called contact tracing. Contact tracing means that you have to tell a doctor or counsellor who you’ve had sex with during the last months. The doctor or the counsellor then inform these people that someone they’ve had sex with has tested positive for a STI and that they need to get tested to find out if they carry the infection or not. To be a part of contract tracing is anonymous, i.e. those who are contacted don’t get to know who gave the information about their names.
Testing as well as treatment of the infections that are covered by the Communicable Diseases Act is free. Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are most often treated with antibiotics. HIV is a chronic infection that is incurable, but thanks to effective HIV medications almost all people who know they’re living with HIV today have a well functioning treatment. That means that the viral load is so low that it’s undetectable and that they can’t transmit HIV to someone else. You are then living with un-transmittable HIV.
Do you often forget to get tested?
With RFSL’s testing reminder you get a text message when it’s time to get tested. The service is free and anonymous and is aimed at you who are a man who has sex with men and you who are a trans person.
You can choose to get a reminder every third, sixth or twelfth month. Text THREE, SIX or TWELWE to 71111 to start the service.