STIs: An Overview

[ STIs: An Overview ] [ Are You At Risk? ] [ Ways to Make Sex Safer ] [ Types of STIs ] [ Vaginal Health ]


  • Routine screen—all individuals reported to be engaging in sexual activity that may put them at risk are offered STI testing
  • Repeat testing may be required based on clinical assessment
This webpage is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

What's An "STI"?

Although sex is a normal, healthy and can be an enjoyable part of life, there are some risks to consider when having sex.

One risk related to sexual activity is getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI): an infection or disease you can get by being sexually intimate with someone who’s infected. STIs have nothing to do with age, hygiene, sexual orientation or income.

Common STIs

You've probably heard about HIV and AIDS. But there are many other serious STIs such as:

You can also get other kinds of infections - such as yeast and bacterial vaginosis (BV) - that may or may not be sexually transmitted.

Most STIs can be cured, but some can't. Left untreated, some STIs result in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and eventual infertility. Protect yourself by always practicing safer sex.

How STIs are Spread?

STI germs live in certain sores and bumps, blood, semen and vaginal fluids.

STIs can pass from person to person during any kind of sex: vaginal (penis in vagina), anal (penis in rectum), or oral (mouth to penis, vagina or anus.) Some STIs cause sores that contain the viruses or bacteria that cause STIs. Touching the sores through genital skin-to-skin contact can also spread an infection.  

Some STIs are spread by sharing needles or by tattooing and body piercing with un-sterilized equipment. You can’t get an STI from shaking hands or from toilet seats.

Signs You Might Have an STI

It can be hard to tell if you or your partner has an STI. Many men and women with STIs don't have any signs or symptoms.

You may have an STI if you have any ONE of these signs:

  • A burning sensation when you urinate or a need to urinate more often.
  • Sores, small bumps or blisters on or near your penis, vagina or anus (rectum).
  • Constant itching around your penis, vagina or anus.
  • Unusual discharge or odour from your penis or vagina.
  • Lower abdominal pain.
  • Pain in your testicles.
  • Bleeding after intercourse or between periods.
  • Pain during intercourse.
  • An abnormal Pap test.

What to Do If You Have an STI?

If you have any signs or symptoms of an STI:

  • Call Peel’s Customer Contact Centre at (905) 799-7700 and ask to speak with a Public Health Nurse.
  • Visit a Peel Healthy Sexuality clinic, or
  • Visit your family doctor or a walk-in clinic.

Most STIs DON’T disappear without treatment, even if your symptoms go away.

You can still have an infection without any symptoms. Left untreated, your infection might cause serious complications such as PID or sterility (you won’t be able to have children in the future). Early treatment will prevent these complications.

If you have an STI you’ll need to be tested and treated.

Treatment is especially important for pregnant women to protect the unborn baby. Be sure to inform your doctor if you’re pregnant.

When your doctor treats you for an STI, take ALL of the medication exactly as ordered even if your symptoms disappear. DON’T share your medication with anyone else. Once you’ve finished all of the medication, return to your doctor or clinic for a check up to see if your infection is cured.

You must tell all of your partner(s), as they also need to be treated.

Don’t have sex until you and your partner(s) are treated and retested.

How to Protect Yourself?

As soon as you start having sex, ask your doctor to examine you for STIs. Get re-tested every year or more frequently if you are at risk of having an infection. Females should also have annual Pap tests.

Abstinence is the only sure way of not getting an STI. If you do choose to have sex:

  • Practice ways to have safer sex. This means using a condom every time.
  • Talk to your sexual partners about how you can practice safer sex together.
  • Birth control pills prevent pregnancy, but they don't prevent STIs.
  • Use a new lubricated latex or polyurethane condom every time you have vaginal and anal sex.
  • Use a latex barrier for oral sex.
  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis B.
  • Young females between the ages of 9 - 26 years can get the HPV vaccine.
  • Ask your doctor if you’re at risk for HIV and other STIs.

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