Rushing out to meet a new mate? A leading sexual health expert is imploring singles to hold out just a little longer and get tested for sexual infections.
Dr Massimo Giola says the lack of casual sexual contact during the lockdown was a “once-in-a-generation chance” to break the transmission chain of some sexually-transmitted infections (STIs).
“We can hit the reset button,” said the president-elect of the Australasian Chapter of Sexual Health Medicine.
“Just as the lockdown period has stopped the spread of one virus, it has done the same with STIs such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia and HIV.
“Transmission of these infections is likely to have all but stopped. We have been presented with a blank canvas to work from.”
The Bay of Plenty District Health Board (BOPDHB) Sexual Health Service Clinical lead said there was a window period in which a person may have caught an STI and the test will still come back negative, but the lockdown period meant this would not be the case.
“There’s a window period from the moment you catch them…that’s two weeks for chlamydia and gonorrhoea and about six weeks for HIV and syphilis. As the lockdown has lasted maybe seven weeks, all the windows are over.
“Doing a test now, if they have it, will definitely show it.
“Take this opportunity and get tested.”
He said STIs had lifelong or potentially devastating impacts but not necessarily to the person with the disease. For example four out of five people who have syphilis have no symptoms and if passed on to a pregnant woman, the baby can be affected and even die.
Chlamydia can cause infertility in women, effecting the connections between the ovaries and uterus.
He said most people could ring to book an STI check with their GP before resuming sexual activity in a post-lockdown world.
“For guys it comes down to peeing in a pot, and having a blood test sample for HIV and syphilis.”
For women: “No need to show your doctor your inner private parts. If they have no symptoms, 15 minutes in and out – done. We will let them know a few days later anything we find and call them back and give them antibiotics.
“I would urge people to get an STI test now, before resuming casual sex,” he said.
“Infections have been virtually eliminated and mass testing could keep it that way. As all incubation periods are now over, if people get tested, we can diagnose and treat STIs before they are passed on.”
If people are uncomfortable speaking to their GP about their sex lives, or belonged to a more vulnerable population they should contact their local sexual health clinic instead.
Dating sites have experienced overwhelming increases in “quality chats” as people reached out virtually.
Among the newcomers to the site Tinder and Bumble was one Coromandel woman who had built a rapport over several weeks during lockdown with a man she’s not yet met in person.
“It was company – something to do. I’ve had phone calls and texts with one daily. We haven’t FaceTimed yet, it felt weird to me when I haven’t met him in person first.”
On Saturday night she turned on her Tinder notifications.”I woke up on Sunday morning to 650 likes, and I had to wade through and it took me all day. I couldn’t believe it. When I told one guy I had awoken to that many likes he said ‘does that happen?’ and I said ‘you tell me, I’m kind of overwhelmed. We had a real laugh about it.”
She was looking forward to a coffee date this weekend.
“A lot of people want to get out there and mingle. Dating without meeting was a good thing, it gave you more time to think through your communications rather than just maybe judging and meeting them straight away.
“You could build a rapport and get more about of what kind of person they are.”
New Zealand moved from alert level 3 to alert level 2 at 11.59pm on Wednesday May, 13.
Cabinet will review alert level 2 restrictions on Monday, May 25.