Support available for sexual and blood borne infections
What are sexual and blood borne infections?
There are many different types of sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections.
A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is an infection that can be transmitted from one person to another through sexual contact (exchange of semen, vaginal fluid, blood or other fluids) including through oral sex.
Blood borne infections (BBI) are primarily passed from one person to another through activities that allow the blood of one person to come in contact with the blood of another person, for example, through sexual contact, maternal transmission to baby, or sharing personal hygiene items, injection needles or drug-use equipment.
Have questions? Speak with a nurse
Call Access York at 1-877-464-9675 Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
York Region’s nurses can:
- Help answer general questions about sexual and blood borne infections (SBBI) and what to do if you have a positive test
- Provide information on treatment, follow-up and referrals
- Provide anonymous contact notification for people who have been exposed to an SBBI
- Provide guidance on next steps including referral to our sexual health clinics
- Provide health information following a blood borne exposure
Anyone can use our services. Our services are free and no health card is required. You do not need to be a resident of York Region.
Common STI symptoms include:
Unusual genital discharge
- Pain during urination
- Pain during sex
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Rash, sores or itching around the genitals or other parts of the body
In many cases, STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV, don’t have any obvious symptoms. You can have an STI without knowing it. And, while you may feel perfectly fine, you can still pass an STI to someone else if you have vaginal, oral or anal sex without a condom.
Common BBI symptoms include:
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes)
- Unusual fatigue
- Dark urine
- Abdominal discomfort
- Loss of appetite
You may not experience obvious symptoms if you have a BBI and the infection may progress without detection. If you are at-risk of a BBI, it is important to learn your status by seeking testing and follow-up from a health care provider.
How do I protect myself?
Ways to protect yourself against STIs and BBIs include:
- Practice safer sex. Using latex or polyurethane condoms and/or oral dams for oral, anal or vaginal sex can reduce the risk of STIs
- Consider regular STI testing for yourself and your sexual partners
- Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a highly effective, safe treatment taken to prevent HIV transmission. For more information on how PrEP works, guidance on how to access PrEP, or to do a quick assessment to see if PrEP is right for you, visit ontarioprep.ca. You can also access PrEP through York Region Sexual Health Clinics
Additional ways to protect against BBIs:
- Harm reduction, or the use of various tools and strategies to prevent infection when people inject or use drugs
- Avoid sharing any personal hygiene items (e.g., razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers)
- Seek personal services (e.g., tattoo, piercing, manicures, pedicures, cosmetic procedures) from facilities that use single-use needles, inks and/or follow proper sterilization procedures
- Get vaccinated for hepatitis B
Should I get tested?
Early detection of STIs and BBIs decreases the risk of long-term health complications from these infections.
If you've had sex without a condom, including oral sex, see your health care provider or book an appointment at a York Region Sexual Health Clinic to get tested for both STIs and BBIs. To find out if you have an SBBI, you need to be tested. Otherwise, you could spread a SBBI to a sexual partner without knowing it.
If you are sexually active, you should get tested. You should consider getting tested every time you have sex with a new partner, prior to sexual contact, at your regular check-ups, and if you have symptoms such as pain during sex, sores, bleeding after sex, abnormal discharge, and/or abnormal vaginal bleeding. It is important to remember that many infections do not have any symptoms.
Testing for BBIs should be included if you have any one of the following risk factors:
- You have engaged in injection, intranasal or inhalation drug use with shared equipment (even once)
- You were born in a region where hepatitis B/C is more common
- One or both of your parents immigrated from a region where hepatitis B/C is more common
- You live in or travel to regions where hepatitis B/C is more common
- You’ve had exposure to non-sterile medical, dental or personal services equipment
- You received blood, blood products, or had an organ transplant before 1992 in Canada
- You had an invasive medical procedure(s) in a country or countries where infection prevention and control practices are not standardized
- You have a family history of liver disease or liver cancer
- You have been in prison
- You are pregnant
- You are a man who has sex with other men
- You receive dialysis
If your test comes back positive
Once you know what you have, you can get the right treatment. It's also worth knowing so you don't pass along a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or blood borne infection (BBI) to someone else. Please review What to do if you were exposed to blood or body fluids resource for more information.
If you test positive for an STI or BBI, take action to prevent the spread. It's important to tell your partner(s) from the past and present, or even future ones, depending on the infection. A Public Health Nurse can provide guidance about which partner(s) require notification. If possible, those that are at-risk of exposure should be treated at the same time you are. That way they can avoid re-infecting you or others.
How do I tell my partner(s)?
If you have concerns about telling your partner(s), call us to speak with a nurse. They can suggest ways to handle the situation or will contact your partner(s) for you. Your name will be kept confidential. If you decide to talk to your partner(s) yourself, learn how to talk comfortably about it.
STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis can be treated and cured by antibiotics. There are also highly effective anti-viral medications available to help people with HIV live longer and healthier lives. With consistent treatment and follow-up, it is possible to prevent sexual transmission of HIV.
While hepatitis B cannot be cured, there are treatments that help keep the infection under control and reduce its damaging effects. Advancements in hepatitis C treatment now make it possible to cure this infection. Getting linked early to a health care provider is important to managing these infections.
If you have had a recent exposure and would like to review recommendations for follow-up, including accessing Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) (treatments to prevent acquisition of hepatitis B or HIV), contact a Public Health Nurse through Access York 1-877-464-9675, connect with a health care provider, or access emergency assessment at your local hospital.
Common STIs and BBIs
Information for Health Care Providers
Health Care Providers play a central role in diagnosing, treating and preventing SBBIs. Providing non-judgmental, comprehensive care for individuals with SBBIs is essential to supporting the best outcomes for clients as well as for infection control in the community. The reporting of required surveillance details assists Public Health in identifying concerning trends and developing responses. Your support and care is appreciated.
York Region’s Sexual & Blood Borne Infections (SBBI) program currently offers:
- Case management for reportable SBBIs including providing health information to clients to assist with navigating access to treatment, follow-up and referrals
- Consults with health care providers to support reporting, treatment, and management of SBBIs
- A community phone line to speak to a Public Health Nurse for SBBI health information and resources
- STI medications at no cost to York Region health care providers to treat confirmed or suspected clients of reportable STIs and contacts
- Anonymous contact notification for people who have been exposed to an SBBI
- Counselling for occupational / non-occupational blood exposures including information on Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
- Working with community partners to support the awareness, treatment, prevention of STIs and BBIs, including Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
- Facilitating the Mandatory Blood Testing Act (MBTA)
- Monitoring trends in reportable SBBIs to improve public health policy, programs, and services
SBBI Case Reports
On receipt of a reportable SBBI for a client residing in York Region, surveillance letters are sent to testing health care providers. If you prefer to expedite this process, please complete the applicable case report on a lab confirmed SBBI and fax it back to 905-940-4541.
STI Medication Program
Ensuring timely treatment of STIs is pivotal to preventing the spread of infections. The STI Medication Program supplies York Region HCPs with government-funded, first-line antibiotic treatment for reportable bacterial STIs. This enables clients and known contacts to access treatment without delay.
Currently over 130 local HCPs are part of the STI stock medication program. To request more information on becoming a STI stock medication clinic or to order a one-time dose of antibiotics, including specialized syphilis treatment - please complete the ordering form and fax back to 905-940-4541, email [email protected] or call SBBI On Duty Line 1-877-464-9675 ext. 74214.
SBBI Infection Management Support
To speak with a Public Health Nurse for SBBI infection management support, including review of STI guideline treatments, lab interpretation and community resources, please call the SBBI On Duty Line 1-877-464-9674 ext. 74214 or email @email.
Please review the Canadian STI Guidelines for additional information.
Post Exposure Prophylaxis PEP
HCPs can refer clients to a local hospital for baseline bloodwork, assessment, and initial access to PEP initiation. See St. Michael’s Pocket PEP guide.
Pre Exposure Prophylaxis PrEP
PrEP is a highly effective HIV prevention strategy that can be used by HIV-negative individuals that are at-risk of HIV infection. When used in conjunction with risk reduction and adherence counselling programs, PrEP can prevent transmission of HIV. York Region Public Health is working towards increasing access to PrEP in York Region. To learn more on how to prescribe PrEP, or to access training, toolkits and resources, visit ontarioprep.ca.
Providing Inclusive Care
York Region health care providers play a pivotal role in addressing the health inequities experienced by individuals that identify as 2SLGBTQI+. It is important to foster an open and welcome environment where individuals can express their unique needs, in order to encourage them to seek much needed health services.
The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) has developed comprehensive best practice guidelines to provide helpful context and a framework that promotes health equity and improves the experiences and health outcomes of 2SLGBTQI+ individuals.
The Canadian Public Health Agency of Canada provides core competency information on discussing SBBI health
- Updated dashboard of reportable infections in York Region, including STIs and BBIs:
- Access to historical reports and statistics for York Region