When was the last time you had a sexual health test?
If you’re struggling to answer that question, or if you’ve never been checked out at all, you’re not alone. According to Hologic, a medical tech company, almost a third of young Aussies have never had a sexual health check before.
From Hologic’s research, 1 in 3 young Aussies feels too embarrassed to speak about their sexual health with a healthcare provider. What’s more, 28% of young Aussies are skipping out on essential sexual health checks.
While reasons behind this will vary, a recent survey done by Geni shows that Aussies aged 18 to 35 blame their lack of knowledge on their ‘very basic’ and ‘bad’ sexual health education at school, limited awareness around when you should go get a sexual health checkup, and the stigma surrounding STIs in general.
April is STI Awareness Month, which focuses on highlighting the importance of booking a sexual health check and being tested for STIs. This is where a sexual health app called Geni comes in.
What is Geni?
Designed to empower young people, particularly those who identify as women, Geni works to ensure that its users have relevant and up-to-date information about all things sexual health. By doing so, the app hopes to give young Aussies the confidence to discuss their sexual health openly in a safe space with a healthcare provider.
Hologic, a known global leader in women’s health, is supporting the development of Geni and its initiatives to help encourage young people to invest more time into their sexual health.
Aggie Cox, the marketing director for ANZ at Hologic, said that Geni’s vision is to act as a conversation starter, especially for those who might be unsure of whether or not they should go and get a sexual health test.
“Geni is a good starting point to learn more about the information they need, before going to the next step of looking for professional healthcare advice,” she explained.
If you’re someone who might be nervous about going and getting check-ups, Geni will allow you to take control of your sexual health.
How Geni works
The app works to give users as much information as they need about their sexual health and the associated risks while also taking the awkwardness out of discussing this topic.
When you first download the app, you’ll be invited to complete an optional and anonymous questionnaire that covers some of the topics that a healthcare provider might ask before conducting sexual health tests.
The answers provided will allow Geni to determine when you should book a sexual health check, which a Hologic spokesperson told us is generally:
- once every 12 months;
- if there has been a change in sexual partners;
- or if a person is experiencing any symptoms.
Obviously, this will differ from person to person though, which is why having a personalised system is so great.
How to get the most out of the sexual health app
Geni is easy to use, so here are some of the app’s most handy features:
Users can opt-in to have the app send them non-invasive reminders letting them know when they should consider booking a sexual health check. If you choose to get reminders, Geni will hook up (pun intended) with your phone’s default calendar to set up these dates so you can go in and check when it might be time to get tested.
While it’s always best to discuss your health and personal boundaries with potential partners, Geni’s risk calculator is an additional asset you may find helpful.
All you need to do is answer a few questions about your sexual health history and Geni will calculate the level of risk you might be at. Geni will talk you through the various risks and give you some extra information about STIs in general in a non-judgemental way.
The language used by Geni is conversational and welcoming and talks you through what it means to be sexually active.
If you’re concerned your healthcare provider will make you feel embarrassed or judged, you’re less likely to visit them, right? Geni has a bank of trusted healthcare providers that can suit users’ needs.
These services also include female General Practitioners, LGBTQI+ friendly clinics and health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Obviously, if you’re comfortable with your current doctor/healthcare provider by all means continue going to them, but it’s helpful knowing you have some choices out there.
Sex ed FAQs
Without having to feel any discomfort around asking these questions in person, Geni has stored answers to commonly asked questions about STIs, cervical screenings, the ins and outs of a sexual health consult, and what symptoms to look out for.
They will also take you to various trusted websites where you can do further research.
It’s certainly preferable that you speak with a doctor about any health concerns you have, but this can act as a stepping stone of sorts.
How and when should you get a sexual health test?
As mentioned earlier, the recommended guidelines around how often you should get tested is about once a year, provided you haven’t had a change in sexual partners and aren’t experiencing any symptoms.
Around 97,000 Aussies are diagnosed with chlamydia each year and as a Hologic spokesperson told us, lots of STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhoea often don’t present any symptoms at all, making it even more important that people go and get checked at least once a year.
If you are experiencing any symptoms at all, then book an appointment with your healthcare provider immediately. Letting an STI run its course through your body may have potentially harmful effects on your health and leave long-lasting damage.
STIs have been on the rise in recent months, with Melbourne having a syphilis outbreak in 2021. So it’s essential that you stay on top of your sexual health.
Starting a conversation about sexual health
Most of the barriers stopping young people from having a sexual health test are mostly because of awkwardness, embarrassment or discomfort in showing their genitals to a doctor.
Geni has essentially been created to help start the conversation about sexual health and hopefully aid young people in talking about their sex life in a safe space where they can feel comfortable.
Associate Professor Melissa Kang from the Sydney Medical School, Faculty of Medicine and Health at the University of Sydney, told us that over the years young people who have been able to look after their sexual health have felt empowered, despite having to visit health professionals and talk about personal stuff.
Kang acknowledged that taking that first step is often the most uncomfortable, but said that it does start to become easier the more you get into the habit of regular sexual health checks.
“I love it when young people feel confident to take charge of their sexual health,” she said.
This article has been updated since it’s publication.