What are sexually transmitted infections and diseases?

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) are viruses spread through unprotected sexual contact.

What are the dangers of STIs and STDs?

Some forms of sexually transmitted infections can be treated with antibiotics, while others stay with you for life. HIV-AIDS is a fatal STI, which means that it can kill you. Most STIs have no visible symptoms but some do. The only way to be sure is to get tested.

There are many great resources online where you can learn more about STIs like the Sexual Health Infoline Ontario & eChat. If you have questions and would rather talk to someone in person, visit a sexual health clinic. If you have any questions about STIs, you can call SpiderBytes HelpLine (Toronto only, 416-961-3200) or the Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868), or the Lesbian Gay Bi Trans YouthLine (1-800-268-2688).

How are STIs transferred?

STIs are usually transferred if you have:

  • Unprotected sexual contact orally (e.g., mouth on genitals), or through contact and/or penetration of the vagina, penis, or anus
  • Genital contact with your infected partner
  • Contact with infected blood (sharing sex toys, needles, etc.)

How do I protect myself?

You can protect yourself by using any of these contraceptives:

  • Male condoms are the most widely-available contraceptive. If you use them properly, they reduce your risk of getting or passing on an STI. You can buy condoms at all pharmacies, most convenience stores and online. You can also get free condoms at most health clinics.
  • Female condoms are harder to find than male condoms. If used properly, they also reduce the risk of pregnancy and getting or passing on an STI. They can be found at pharmacies, sex shops and health clinics.
  • Dental dams are sheets of latex that prevent STI’s from transferring between the vagina or anus and the mouth. You can make one by cutting a condom or latex glove open, then stretching it over your partner’s genitalia.

How can I get tested for STIs?

All family doctors and health clinics provide STI testing. A nurse or doctor will ask you about your sexual history. You then give a blood and/or urine sample. All of this is confidential, which means the doctor or nurse will not tell anyone that you got tested. HIV tests and STI tests are free. If you test positive for an infection, your doctor or nurse will help you get treatment. You should also inform your sexual partner(s) of your results to prevent further spread of infection.

If you are uncomfortable going to your family doctor, think about going to a sexual health clinic. They are confidential, can be youth-friendly, and you may be able to speak to someone in your own language.

Category