A simple guide to STI testing for LGBTQ+ people in Ireland

For anyone who is sexually active, it's important to know where, when and how to test for an STI. Here is a simple guide on how to do so in Ireland.

This article is about STI testing for LGBTQ+ people. In the photo, the hands of a nurse holding a blood sample.
Image: Via Pexels -Los Muertos Crew

Sex, if you’re into it, is pretty class – but there are some risks we need to negotiate. And if you’re having sex, whether you identify as LGBTQ+ or not, you should be aware of the risk of a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Historically, LGBTQ+ people have a high rate of STI testing, one that comes from a place of necessity. The AIDS epidemic of the ’80s and ’90s in Western countries and the current lack of support for developing nations to access treatments or drugs means that, as a community, we are never very far from talking about testing and blood work.

With the advancements in the treatment of HIV in Ireland, and the availability of PrEP for free (as long as you register for the Drug Payment Scheme), we’d hope to see falling rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. However, every STI across the board has seen an increase in 2022 compared to the 2021 figures.

As queer people, we must be able to test, treat and protect ourselves and we must know where, when and how to do so. So here is a simple but comprehensive guide to STI testing for LGBTQ+ folks.


Testing in Sexual Health Clinics
For some people, being in a medical environment can cause anxiety and stress, and this is especially true for queer individuals. Adding the stress of having an STI symptom or being told someone you slept with has tested positive can make the prospect of going to a clinic very frightening. However, you should know that the staff of STI clinics are trained above and beyond the criteria of nurses or doctors, and many have dedicated their careers and their professional education to STIs and HIV treatment and prevention. Whatever you are going there for, there is a very high chance they have seen it before.

When you arrive at the clinic, you’ll be given a reference number at the reception desk. While this may seem dehumanising, it is done for privacy reasons and is a far cry better than having your name shouted in a busy waiting room.

You will need to prepare yourself to answer questions that may range from your genitalia, your sexual partners, their gender, and your preferred role during sexual intercourse. These questions will inform the best way to effectively test and treat anything that might come up.


In my personal experience, all clinic staff I have met in Ireland have been understanding and open about gender identity, pronouns, and the number of sexual partners. Being honest is really important, as without the right information, they might not be able to treat you as effectively.

The tests that you can expect range from throat swabs, rectal swabs, vaginal swabs, urine tests, blood tests, and penile swabs – though this last type is less common. The swabs will, in most cases, be given to you, and you can complete them in the privacy of a toilet. The blood test will instead be conducted by a nurse.

The medical staff at the clinic may ask about vaccination, such as Hepatitis and HPV; these are important to consider if you are in an ‘at risk’ category. This is also the time for you to ask any questions or concerns that you may have. Once you are finished, you are given a card with your reference number on it, and you are free to go. Your test results can be checked by phoning in and giving the number. Results are usually available 7-14 days after testing, although each clinic will differ.

Sexual Health Clinics can be found in most counties in Ireland and you can find a list of services at this link.

Testing at home
Not all LGBTQ+ folks have the luxury of being able to just pop into a clinic and get tested for an STI. Fortunately, there is a free home testing service available in Ireland called SH24.ie. On the website, you can fill out your details and answer personal questions about your sex life and partners, aimed to provide accurate testing for you. Once you submit the request, you will receive a text to say that a test has been dispatched to your address.

The test will arrive in a discreet, unmarked, white envelope, and its contents will be similar to the tests in the clinic. Depending on your particular needs, the postal kits will contain a variety of things: vaginal/throat/anal swabs, urine samples and a blood test kit for HIV and syphilis. Each test comes with a clear, colour-printed infographic with step-by-step instructions.


Once you have completed the tests, you will put them into a freepost envelope and drop it in a post box. In 3-4 days, SH24 will text to say that your samples have been received, and they will give you an estimated timeframe for results. Results will be texted to you, and in case of a positive result, they will provide you with a number and a link to avail of treatment. Treatment for STIs when testing through SH24.ie or an HSE clinic is free in Ireland.

The information contained in this article was provided by Sexual Health West, and more can be found in their West of Ireland Sexuality Education Resource (WISER).

© 2023 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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