To help you make the right decisions for your own sexual health, OOHC has created this information page. Enjoy Sex but Play Well and Stay Well.
Right now, Winnipeg and Manitoba is seeing important and worrisome changes in the pattern of Sexually Transmitted and Blood Borne Infections (STBBIs).
- There is an outbreak of syphilis in Men who have Sex with Men (MSM)
- MSM have the highest rate of HIV infection, particularly in the 40 – 64 year age group
- Winnipeg has a large number of MSM who are partnered with women
- Local data show that condoms are used during anal sex only 31% of the time
- Amongst Winnipeg MSM, STBBI testing and knowledge about important methods of protection are under 50%
- Many Winnipeg MSM have little contact with gay or bisexual friends and this could limit their access to safer-sex education
We have partnered with CATIE, a respected Canadian information source, to help you to keep yourself, your family, and community safe.
Sexually Transmitted Infections Reportable to Public Health
People who test positive for Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis are automatically reported to Public Health by the laboratory. OOHC or Public Health nurses will then help people get treatment and assist with contact-tracing to limit these infections in the community.
Chlamydia is an infection that may show no signs but also can cause deeper infections in the body. It can be caught through oral, vaginal, and anal sex. It can be detected with a urine test and swabs. Chlamydia is treated first with medication taken by mouth.
Gonnorrhea is an infection that usually causes pain and discharge from the genitals. It also can affect different parts of the body. Gonorrhea can be caught through oral, vaginal, and anal sex. It can be detected with a urine test and swabs. Gonorrhea is treated with medication taken by mouth or by injection.
Syphilis is an infection that can be found on the genitals, in the rectum or vagina, in the mouth, and on the skin. It is caught by skin contact with an infected body part. Syphilis can have few symptoms, but also can be harmful to the body if not treated. It is detected by blood tests. Syphilis can be treated with a single dose of injected antibiotic, or a course of pills.
Herpes is a virus that can be spread from skin-to-skin contact and can affect the genitals, rectum, mouth, and skin. While herpes can be treated, it cannot be cured and people with the virus can have unpredictable and painful outbreaks.
HIV & Hepatitis C
HIV and Hepatitis C are ``blood-borne” infections, which means that they are carried in the blood, and detected by blood tests. They can be passed on by exposure to blood and other body-fluids such as semen and vaginal or anal secretions. While Hepatitis C can be cured, HIV cannot. Daily medication for life can drop HIV levels so low that the infection cannot be passed on to others.
Negative: A person who is not infected with HIV. However, as soon as a “negative” person has sex that might infect them with the virus, he or she cannot truly know if they are still “negative” until their next HIV test.
Positive: A person who has been infected with HIV. Up to 20% of people who are “HIV positive” do not yet know that they have the virus, and can pass it on to others.
Undetectable: An HIV positive person who is treated so that the level of HIV in their blood is so low that they cannot pass the virus on to others.
On PrEP: An HIV negative person who is taking Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) medication. This makes it very unlikely to catch HIV if they are exposed to the virus. To be most effective, PrEP must be taken every day. More information can be found below.
Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
PEP is a one month drug treatment to stop HIV infection in people who might have been exposed to the virus. To be effective, PEP must be started within a few days of the exposure, otherwise infection with HIV is possible.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
PrEP is a medication that can prevent HIV infection, but to be effective, it must be taken every day. PrEP is most useful for people who often could get exposed to HIV such as those with multiple sex partners, people with HIV positive sex partners, sex workers, and those who routinely do not use condoms during sex. The medication also can have side-effects and people on the drug must be monitored every few months. PrEP is expensive and not covered by most Provincial or private drug plans. However, Our Own Health Centre can direct people to alternate legal ways to obtain this medication.
Safer Sex is sex that might reduce the spread of STBBIs. Usually, it means the use of a condom. To possibly reduce HIV infection, some people also use serosorting (having sex with people of the same HIV status) even though this is far less reliable.
Condoms are the primary barrier method to prevent the passage of STBBIs and are very effective when used properly. However, condom use is decreasing because many people believe that STBBIs (including HIV) now are easily treated, sex without a barrier feels better, and pornography rarely shows condoms being used. The fact remains that condoms are the only way to protect people from a variety of STBBIs at the same time.