HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT SEXUAL HEALTH? SPEAK WITH A FREE ONLINE SEXUAL HEALTH COUNSELLOR!
We now offer FREE online sexual health counselling from our experienced sexual health counsellor Kim. Download our app “The PrEP Clinic” to book a free online appointment with her (video chat through the app) from anywhere! (ANYONE is welcome to this free service).
INFORMATION ON SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS (STIs)
Someone’s risk for a certain sexually transmitted infection (STI) is dependent on the type of sexual activity. It is important to keep in mind that someone who has acquired an STI may not have immediate symptoms (or obvious ones at all) and can still carry the infection and pass it on to someone else. Some types of infections can end up being long term chronic conditions and others can be treated acutely and can go away.
It is important for anyone who is (or will be) sexually active to be familiar with risks, symptoms, prevention, and where to seek help. Your family doctor, clinics, public health unit, and The PrEP Clinic are all great resources. Anyone who is sexually active is strongly encouraged to test regularly for STIs. Learn more here: https://sexualhealthontario.ca/en/stis
Sexual Health Ontario
Ontario’s resource for STIs, fertility, and contraception. You can chat online with a nurse or call for assistance. The site also provides locations to get tested in your region.
Provides information on HIV and Hepatitis C risks, prevention, and treatment options. Check out their Safer Sex Guide here: http://librarypdf.catie.ca/PDF/ATI-20000s/26536.pdf
Provided by CATIE, you can search for available HIV and Hepatitis services near you.
ACT Toronto (AIDS Committee of Toronto)
ACT offers a variety of mental health, sexual health and substance use supports to cis and trans gay, bi and queer (GBQ) guys. The Community Counselling program offers sexual health, mental health and substance use support to GBQ guys regardless of their HIV status in bathhouses, Maple Leaf Medical Clinic and Church Wellesley Health Centre, and on-site at ACT. The Gay Men’s Group Programs offer group based support to GBQ guys on a variety of topics, including wellness, body image, validation, crystal meth and sex, and intimate partner violence. Anonymous point-of-care HIV testing is available on Wednesday evenings from 4:00-8:00pm and a community counsellor is available during this time on a drop-in basis, regardless of test result.
Ontario Public Health and the HPV vaccine
INFORMATION ON CONTRACEPTION OPTIONS (BIRTH CONTROL)
It is important for anyone planning to become pregnant to get tested for HIV. Treatment before becoming pregnant or early on in pregnancy can prevent transmission to your baby. In fact, if a person living with HIV is undetectable before pregnancy or early on they will not transmit the virus to their baby.
If you are an Ontario resident under 25 without insurance, have public coverage, or private insurance many birth control options are covered by insurance. For those under 25 many would even be free. The “morning-after pill” is covered with a prescription by public insurance plans (it is important to take ASAP).
Compares the benefits and disadvantages of different birth control methods.
Morning After Pill Manufacturer Website
Their site includes an effectiveness calculator, how it works, and many frequently asked questions.
How to Use Condoms (Internal & External)
With the landmark “Me Too” movement we are reminded of the importance of the conversation on consent. The basic definition of consent is “when an individual gives their own permission”.
This may seem like a basic concept on the surface, however there can be (and certainly has been in many cases) some confusion or lack of understanding on what exactly it means and where it occurs in our day to day lives. Coercion, bullying, harassment, incapacitation, silence, and fear can also impact whether an individual has truly given consent.
If you need assistance removing photos from the internet visit: https://needhelpnow.ca/app/en/removing_pictures-facebook
Frequently Asked Sexual Health Questions
Pharmacist Drew (Andrew) has received many questions over the past few years relating to sexual health both in the pharmacy and online. Below are some of the most common questions he has received and their answers.
Q: If I don’t have any symptoms and neither does my sexual partner could I still have an STI (sexually transmitted infection)?
A: Some folks don’t experience symptoms but may still have an STI and be able to pass on an infection. The only way to be sure is to get tested. One of the reasons for HIV transmission is that 14% of Canadians living with HIV do not know, aren’t treated, and can pass it on.
It is important to know your status and get regular testing. Some guidelines suggest testing every 3 months for people who are regularly sexually active outside of a monogamous relationship. If you start PrEP you will get regular testing in your care.
Q: What is “undetectable” and can I acquire HIV from sexual activity with a person living with HIV on effective treatment?
A: Undetectable is when a person living with HIV is consistently on effective medication and regular blood tests are not able to detect the HIV virus. This means the condition is in excellent control and they can not transmit HIV to a partner through sexual intercourse. This is what U=U represents, that Undetectable = Untransmittable.
The individual will need to continue to take their medication and get regular bloodwork to ensure they remain undetectable. Not everyone on HIV medication is undetectable – their doctor will advise them of their bloodwork to know. Check out our section on U=U to learn more.
Q: Is oral sex a risk for HIV transmission?
A: Receiving oral sex will not transmit HIV. Most references suggest giving oral sex to someone is low risk. What does low risk mean though? There are some case reports of transmission occurring, but it is generally unusual. If there is poor oral hygiene/mouth sores/open sores the risk would increase.
It would also be dependent on the amount of virus and sexual fluid (ie. Did ejaculation occur?). For more info ask your local public health unit or check out this great guide from CATIE: http://librarypdf.catie.ca/PDF/ATI-40000s/40272.pdf
Q: If I had a urine test was I fully tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea?
A: A urine test will not show if there is an infection in the throat or rectum (there are swabs for this). It’s always best to advise whoever is testing you about your sexual activity. Otherwise important tests might not be ordered. It also may impact the choice of antibiotics given as there are some types of infections more resistant in certain groups of people.
Q: If I want to know someone’s status can I ask them if they’re “clean”?
A: There is a fair bit of stigma when it comes to STIs. Asking someone if they are “clean” can imply a person living with HIV or any other STI is unclean or dirty – which isn’t the case at all. It’s best to simply ask when someone was last tested and their status. Stopping stigma starts with you! Words matter!
Q: What is the difference between “PrEP” and “PEP”?
A: PrEP is a medication people who are HIV-negative can take regularly to prevent acquiring HIV before a risk exposure. It is a proactive medication regimen.
This differs from PEP which is a reactive medication regimen. This means that someone takes PEP after they have had a risk exposure. So – say you are with someone and forgot to use a condom or later found out they may not be on effective medication and living with HIV. A person can take PEP (which is a 28-day medication regimen) within 72 hours to reduce their risk of acquiring HIV.
PEP works well but the precise effectiveness is not well documented. What studies do know is that the earlier a person begins PEP after their risk exposure the greater the effectiveness. If you or anyone you know ever needs PEP they should go to the emergency room for medication as soon as possible.
Emergency rooms often will provide a PEP starter pack for a few days and provide a prescription. We can ship out the remaining medication in your PEP regimen for free across Ontario or you can access it directly from our Toronto site at Bloor & Spadina.
We provide FREE internal and external condoms at our Toronto pharmacy site as well!