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Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs about SHQ

SHQ welcomes people of all ages, cultures, genders, beliefs, identities, abilities and sexualities.

Read our Diversity position statement

You can also read our Strategic Plan and Reconciliation Action Plan at our About Us page.

Appointments are required for most of our services.

Click on the service below for the relevant appointment information.

To enquire about appointments with other SHQ services (e.g. education) or individuals, please use our contact form.


Our Location page provides information on where we are, as well as nearby public transport and parking.


SHQ has a selection of resources to purchase, and some free resources too. Please visit our Ordering Resources page for details.

We also have resources to borrow and hire in the Library & Resource Centre.

Yes we do have a current Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), you can download the full document from the About Us page.

FAQs about counselling at SHQ

We welcome everyone at SHQ Counselling. In acknowledging the diverse and unique needs of our clients, we offer supportive and sensitive services for people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex people and people experiencing social and economic disadvantage. We make a special welcome to young people under the age of 25.

Please visit out Counselling Costs page for more information about our counselling fees.

Your confidentiality and privacy are valued and respected at all times. SHQ adheres to the Privacy Act, and all of your information is treated with the utmost confidentiality. When you come to SHQ, we will provide you with a copy of our Privacy Statement, which explains fully how we deal with your confidential information. Your counsellor can discuss this further with you if you have any questions.

At SHQ we offer individual counselling, couples counselling and family counselling. Sometimes it is important to come to counselling alone, and sometimes it can be helpful to bring your partner or a family member with you – you can discuss this with us when you make your appointment.

The answers to the health questions below are not intended to be used a substitute for medical advice. Please see our Legal Disclaimer.

FAQs about STIs

For more information on Sexually Transmissible Infections (STIs), you can visit our STI Testing & Treatment page and our STI brochure.

If you’ve had sex without a condom you should consider getting tested for STIs at a GP or at a sexual health clinic.

It can take up to 7 days after transmission for common STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea to be detected in a test. Blood-borne viruses such as HIV and syphilis can take up to 12 weeks afterwards. The health professional performing the test will talk to you about when you should get tested.

What happens during the test depends on what STIs are being tested for, and if you have any symptoms. The health professional performing the test will usually ask some questions about your sexual history to determine what tests you require, taking into account any unusual symptoms.

Testing for chlamydia and gonorrhoea involves a urine test or a swab (cotton bud) test which you can take yourself. Sometimes a physical examination is necessary and the health professional may need to take additional swabs.

It is often recommended that you have a blood test to test for other STIs such as HIV, syphilis and Hepatitis B. You can also request a blood test if you think there’s a chance you have one of these infections.

If you are diagnosed with an infection, it’s important to let your partner/s know so they can get tested as well. There are ways this can be done confidentially – your health professional can help you with this.



Usually results that are normal (no infection detected) are sent via SMS. But sometimes clients prefer an email, phone call or a letter. The health professional will ask what you prefer.

Results are usually back within 7 days but if you haven’t heard anything after 14 days it’s a good idea to follow up to ensure you know what the results were.

HIV, Syphilis and Hepatitis B can take up to 12 weeks to come up in a blood test after a risk. The health professional should talk to you about any recent risks and when to repeat any testing if needed.

If someone has symptoms, then sometimes the health professional will want you to return for follow up. This is usually to ensure treatment and management has gone as planned.

Lumps on your genitals can be caused by a variety of conditions. Some lumps are completely normal, while others may indicate you have a condition like genital warts or genital herpes. If you are concerned by any new lumps or bumps in the genital area, please see a health professional.

Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus HSV-1 or HSV-2. Type 1 generally infects the mouth (causing cold sores), while type 2 generally infects the genital area (genital herpes).

Typical symptoms of herpes infection is a cluster of small blisters. They break and weep after a few days leaving sores that may crust over and can be very painful.

Outbreaks of herpes can be anywhere on the genital area. There are treatments available which can help to improve symptoms, reduce their frequency and reduce infectivity.

More information on genital herpes:


PrEP (or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), is a medication that, when taken daily, can prevent the transmission of HIV to someone who is uninfected.

Read our PrEP information sheet for more details.

PrEP is available from some GP’s and from sexual health clinics.


PEP (or Post-exposure prophylaxis), is a prescribed course of medications that are taken soon after (within 72 hours) a potential exposure to HIV. These medicines help to reduce the risk of HIV becoming established in the body.

PEP is not a cure for HIV and is not a guarantee for preventing HIV infection. Safe sex and safe drug injecting practices are the most effective ways of protecting yourself and others from HIV.

If you think you have been exposed to HIV, please see a health professional as quickly as possible (the sooner you start PEP the better chance there is of it working), or contact the PEP Line on 1300 767 161.

FAQs about contraception

For more information on individual contraceptive methods, you can read our contraception information sheets.

The emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) is available over the counter at pharmacies, so you don’t need to see a doctor to get a prescription. ECP is most effective at preventing pregnancy when taken within 24 hours of having unprotected sex (the sooner it is taken the more effective it is). It is a very safe to use.

ECP is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the ‘morning after pill’, when in fact it can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex. The effectiveness of ECP decreases as time passes and is significantly reduced beyond 3 days (72 hours) after sex has occurred. As the ECP is not as reliable as many other forms of contraception, it is not recommended for regular use.

Another option is to have a copper IUD inserted. This is a very effective form of emergency contraception up to 5 days after unprotected sex, but can only be inserted by specially-trained doctors. For more information please contact the Sexual Health Helpline.

Emergency contraception does not protect against sexually transmissible infections (STIs). If you have had unprotected sex you should get tested for STIs by a GP or at a sexual health clinic.

For more information read our Emergency Contraception information sheet.

No – ECP prevents pregnancy happening in the first place. It won’t have any effect on an established pregnancy.

Long-term use of hormonal contraception has not been shown to have an impact on fertility. Fertility usually returns almost immediately upon ceasing use of hormonal contraception.

Despite common misconception, and intrauterine device (IUD) can be used before or after having children, and can be removed at any time (and fertility returns immediately). Your health professional will take a detailed medical history and pelvic examination to ensure that an IUD is suitable for you.

An IUD is a small, flexible device which is inserted into the uterus (womb) by a health professional to prevent pregnancy. IUDs are usually a very suitable option for people looking for reliable long-acting reversible contraception, or those who can’t take oestrogen (found in most oral contraceptives and the vaginal ring).

Prices for IUDs can vary. You can read more about costs for IUDs here.

If you are an overseas visitor needing contraception, it is best to make an appointment at SHQ to discuss the options available. Most methods available overseas are also available in Australia, apart from the contraceptive patch and Cerazette (a progestogen-only pill).

If possible, please bring your pill pack with you to your appointment so you can be given a similar brand or formulation.

Condoms come in a variety of shapes, sizes, textures and colours, so try a few and see which variety and brand feels best for you and your partner/s. Most brands will also have sizing information on their website.

Research has shown there is no evidence that taking the Pill causes weight gain. Fear of weight gain can sometimes prevent people from taking the contraceptive pill or cause them to stop using it, but in most cases, their fears are unfounded.

However, with so many different contraceptive pills on the market, finding the right one can be difficult for some people. It is important to remember that some side effects that emerge when starting a pill don’t always last – they may disappear or decrease after the body adjusts to the hormones in the Pill. If problems persist however, you should see a doctor, as a change of pill may be all that is required.

Research has confirmed that it is safe to take the hormone pills in the pill packet continuously and miss the non-active sugar pills altogether if you want to skip a period. This won’t do your body any harm.

This is when a person removes their penis from a vagina before ejaculating (cumming) so sperm doesn’t enter the vagina.

This method needs to be used consistently and correctly every time for it to be most effective, but even then, the failure rate is higher than that of most other methods of contraception. Even if a person with a penis ‘cums’ just outside the vagina, some sperm may still be able to swim inside, and there can also be sperm in any pre-ejaculation fluids. It can also be difficult for people to remember to withdraw in time.

If you are considering using this method for contraception you should take into consideration the type of relationship you are in and the risks you are prepared to take. The risk of pregnancy is very high, and you also aren’t protected against STIs.

FAQs about other sexual health topics

This is a common issue for many people and there are many factors which can be the cause. Lots of communication and practice with a loving and sensitive partner can be the best way to enjoy sex. Many people with vulvas/vaginas are able to experience orgasm through clitoral stimulation rather that vaginal penetration. Practicing on your own (masturbation) and working out what feels good can also help, as can spending more time on foreplay.

The majority of the time bleeding after sex does not indicate a serious problem, however it should always be investigated by a health professional. Sometimes it can be a sign of an infection.

Bleeding after sex is rarely a sign of cervical cancer. Having regular cervical screens every 5 years is the best way of detecting early warning signs of cervical cancer. Read more about cervical screening here.

Many people experience painful intercourse, but it should not be ignored. Some people with a vagina find it painful when a penis, finger/s or toy is first inserted, while others find it more painful when something is deep inside the vagina.

Painful intercourse can often be linked to vaginal dryness and lack of lubrication. Water-based lubricant (available in most chemists and supermarkets), may be helpful, as can spending more time on foreplay. There can also be other different causes such as an infection, a small tear, or the possibility of endometriosis.

Emotional disturbances, such as a history of sexual abuse, can also be responsible for pain. Some people have vaginismus, a condition in which the vaginal muscles tighten so much they make penetration difficult and painful.

If you are experiencing persistent painful sex it is important to see a health professional. It is important to exclude physical reasons for any pain before putting it down to psychological factors.

This is a common concern for many people. Like all body parts, everyone’s genitals looks different, and just as it is normal for two breasts to be slightly different shaped, the same goes for both sides of a labia (vaginal lips). Penis and testicle size and shape will also vary from person to person.

Remember that genitals shown in the media have usually been photo shopped; you might like to check out to see just how unique labias can be!

If you are still concerned, please discuss with a health professional.

While the older-style Pap smear looked for any abnormal cervical cell changes, the new Cervical Screening Test looks for the presence of the HPV infection that can cause abnormal cell changes. This allows for monitoring and if needed, treatment of these abnormalities, to prevent cervical cancer.

HPV is a common infection, and 4 out of 5 people will have it at some point in their lifetime (and most won’t know about it). HPV is easily passed on through unprotected sexual activity. After you have sex with someone with the virus, HPV is shared between you, and each person’s body deals with it in their own way. It is mostly impossible to tell where it came from, or who had it first.

Many people don’t realise they carry the virus (ie they have no symptoms), and passing it on is not a deliberate act. People can also develop symptoms years after having sex with someone who has an infection (so it might not be a current partner).

Most HPV infections are naturally cleared by the body’s immune system in about two years without causing any problems. If the body does not clear the virus, these abnormal cervical cells can progress and this may lead to cervical cancer. This usually takes as long as 10 to 15 years.

Regular Cervical Screening Tests (for most people with a cervix this is every five years) are recommended to detect higher-risk types of HPV before they can cause changes in the cervix. All results are followed-up according to current guidelines, and the risk of getting cervical cancer is extremely small.

Vaccination against HPV (Gardasil) is an effective way to reduce the risk of getting a high risk type of HPV. It doesn’t protect people from all of the known types of HPV, but gives very good protection for the most serious types.

My question wasn’t answered, where do I go for more information?

If you have a question about STIs, contraception, or any other sexual health topic that wasn’t answered above, you can reach out to our Sexual Health Helpline via phone or email.

If you are looking for free, confidential unintended pregnancy support, please call the 1800 4 Choice (1800 424 642) helpline. 

For general enquiries, please use our contact form.


Please read our Legal Disclaimer.