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Clap your hands: Getting an STI check

Wednesday 16th July 2014

New Zealanders have something of a reputation as being pretty sexually active – and not always being safe with it.

Jackie Chan and an animated condom bowing to each other

In the three months to March, reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhoea increased. The New Zealand Sexual Health Society says since 2009, chlamydia rates in New Zealand have gradually fallen, however, the New Zealand chlamydia rate for 2013 is markedly higher than the most recently reported Australian rate. And the majority of cases are in people under 25.

READ Jackson Wood’s story on the unprotected sex“In the moment ... when you’ve got your clothes off and you’re there, you don’t think about the risk.”

A study of nearly 3000 university students [pdf] aged between 17 and 24 found that only 58 per cent of men and 51 per cent of women had used a condom the last time they had sex. With those odds, most people will end up on the business end of an STI check at some point in their lifetime.

WATCH the answers people on the streets of Wellington gave to our questions about STIs:

I went to visit Family Planning’s National Nursing Advisor, Rose Stewart, to find out what that involves. And I took a recorder along for good measure. Rose and I talked about how intimidating it can be for young women to get their first smear/STI examination. The images conjured are stirrups and metal speculums and for men, a swab from inside the penis. (A good rule of thumb: don’t image search this stuff.) But Rose says it isn’t that scary at all. 

“You’re a well person coming in for a routine health service...it’s our job to make it as comfortable as possible,” she says. She says the more relaxed a person is the better.

Rose took me through a pamphlet [pdf], with all the possible STIs, to see what I might have, how I might have caught it, and what the symptoms might be. There was a number of mentions of the word ‘discharge’.

She then took a medical history – asking me about my sex life, my general health and my safety. She then took a couple of swabs – men pee in a cup – and that was that. You can listen below.

(If you are worried you might have an STI, Family Planning has heaps of resources.)