BC Drug and Poison Information Centre - Poison Control Service 1.800.567.8911           

Overview

 

Definition

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are the bacteria, viruses and protozoa that are passed between people during vaginal, oral and anal sex. They are common in both men and women, and two-thirds of all STIs occur in people younger than 25 years old. Many times a person notices no symptoms when they have an STI. This is why we recommend that people who are sexually active have regular STI testing. STIs include:

 

 

Causes

STIs are passed through vaginal, oral or anal sex and skin-to-skin contact. The chances of getting an STI are higher if you have unprotected sex with more one partner. Some STIs can be passed through sharing needles or during the delivery of a baby or breast-feeding.  

Complications

In women, untreated STIs can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of the uterus and fallopian tubes. PID is serious because it can lead to infertility, tubal pregnancy or chronic pelvic pain. In men, untreated STIs can cause infection of the prostate and the tubes in the testes (epididymitis).  

Tests and Diagnosis

When you go for STI testing, your health care provider will ask about your sexual history to determine which tests you need. The STI exam may include a physical exam, swabs and urine collection.

In women, swabs are taken from the cervix or vagina for chlamydia, gonorrhea, yeast, bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis. Chlamydia and Gonorrhea can also be tested using a urine sample. A pap smear may also be part of the exam.

In men, a urine sample is collected for chlamydia and gonorrhea testing. If there are STI symptoms or a partner is positive for chlamydia or gonorrhea, your health care provider may take also a swab from the penis.

Blood tests are done for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis testing.

In BC, many clinics offer free HIV testing, STI testing and treatment, and hepatitis immunizations. Some clinics see people on a drop-in basis, although appointments are often recommended. Phone ahead to see what the policies are before going to a clinic.

 

Treatment and Drugs

Bacterial STIs, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia are treated and cured with antibiotics. Viral STIs such as herpes, genital warts and HIV can be managed with medication as needed.

In BC, treatment for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis is free. Other treatments may require a doctor prescription that is filled at a pharmacy.

See the BCCDC Medication Handouts for more information on STI treatments.

 

Prevention

 

Ways to prevent STI infections include:

  • Practice safer sex - use condoms or another barrier to lower the chances of getting or passing an STI
  • Avoid sexual contact if you or your partners have symptoms of an STI, have been exposed to an STI,  or are being treated for an STI
Last Updated: November 17, 2014