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Sexually Transmitted and Blood Borne Infections (STBBI)

Information on common sexually transmitted and blood born infections, their symptoms, prevention and treatment.


1. Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis.

Most cases occur in people between 15 to 24 years of age.

Chlamydia is spread through unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex with an infected person. A pregnant woman with chlamydia can pass the infection to the baby during pregnancy or childbirth.


  • Most individuals who are infected with chlamydia do not know it because they don't have symptoms.
  • Males who have symptoms may have pain or burning on urination with clear to milky discharge from the penis.
  • Females who have symptoms may have unusual or increased vaginal discharge, pain during sex, pain or burning when peeing or pelvic pain.
  • Females may have spotting between periods or after sex.
  • Symptoms of rectal infections may include rectal pain, discharge, or bleeding.

Symptoms may appear 1-3 weeks (or up to 6 weeks) after exposure.


2. Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by bacterium Neisseria gonorrhea.

Most cases are in young adults under 25 years of age.

Over the years, gonorrhea has become harder to treat because there are more drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea in many parts of the world and Canada.

Gonorrhea is spread through unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex with an infected person. A pregnant woman with gonorrhea can pass the infection to the baby during pregnancy or childbirth.


  • Many persons who are infected with gonorrhea do not know it because they don't have symptoms.
  • Symptoms can occur in different parts of the body where the infection is (genitals, throat, rectum)
  • Males who have symptoms may have pain or burning when peeing or white, yellow or green discharge from the penis. Sometimes they may have painful or swollen testicles.
  • Females who have symptoms may have different vaginal discharge, pain during sex, pain or burning when peeing or pelvic pain.
  • Females may have spotting between periods or after sex.
  • Infections in the throat do not usually cause symptoms.
  • Symptoms of rectal infections may include discharge, anal itching, soreness, bleeding or painful bowel movements.

Symptoms may appear 2-7 days after contact.


3. Herpes

Herpes is an infection caused by a virus called Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV).

There are two types of herpes viruses (HSV-1 and HSV-2). HSV-1 commonly causes cold sores on the lips and mouth. Most genital herpes cases are caused by HSV-2.

Herpes is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact with the open sores or blisters. This type of contact may occur with kissing or oral, vaginal or anal sex.

Genital herpes can be spread more easily during an active infection (from the time there are early signs of infection until the sores are completely healed).

More commonly, transmission occurs when there are no symptoms (this is called asymptomatic shedding). Herpes may also be spread from a mother to her baby during childbirth.


  • Many people with herpes have mild or no symptoms.
  • Symptoms may appear about 6 days (between 2-21 days) after infection.
  • When symptoms do occur, they are small, painful, fluid-filled blisters appearing in the genital area. Tingling or burning in the affected area may also be noticed before the blisters or sores appear.
  • A group of blisters is called an "outbreak".
  • Blisters open and form a sore that will crust or scab.
  • In men, these blisters may occur on the penis, scrotum or anus.
  • In women, these blisters or sores may occur on the vulva, in the vagina, and on the cervix or anus.
  • Some people do not know they have herpes because the sores may be on the cervix or inside the penis or vagina where they cannot be seen.
  • Repeat outbreaks may occur but tend to be shorter and less painful than the first outbreak.
  • Outbreaks can be triggered by things such as stress, fatigue, other infections, physical injury to the genital area, or conditions that weaken the immune system.
  • Flu-like illness with headache, fever and swollen glands occurs over half the time with the first outbreak (primary infection).

4. Non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU)

Non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU) is the broad name of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that occur in males and are caused by germs other than gonorrhea bacteria.

NGU occurs in the urethra, the tube where urine is passed from the bladder to outside the body.

About 30% of the time, NGU is caused by Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria (which cause chlamydia). Other causes include Mycoplasma genitalium bacteria, Trichomonas vaginalis (which cause "trich") or herpes viruses.

It is common that men may have no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may take one to five weeks to show up.


  • A clear to white discharge from the penis;
  • Difficult or painful urination;
  • Urinary frequency;
  • Irritation at the opening of the penis.

5. Pubic Lice

Pubic lice, also known as "crabs," are parasites that can live in the pubic or genital area of humans. They may also be found on coarse body hair like the thighs, chest, armpits, eyebrows or moustache/beard.

Pubic lice are different from head or body lice. Pubic lice are very small (the size of a pinhead). They are reddish-brown or light gray in colour and can be seen moving in the hair. They live for about 3 weeks. They survive for about 24 hours off the body.

Adult pubic lice lay eggs called "nits." Nits look like small, brown dots that cannot be pulled or washed off the hair. Nits hatch after 7-10 days.


  • Itchiness that is worse at night;
  • Dark red dots on your skin or in your underwear;
  • Visible nits or crawling lice.

6. Vaginal infections

Vaginal infections are a common reason for a woman to see her doctor.

Vaginal infections are caused by bacteria (germs) that normally live in the vagina and have overgrown causing symptoms. Things that can allow bacteria to overgrow include use of bath oils, bubble baths, douches, scented pads or tampons, poor hygiene, or use of tight, non-absorbent underwear.

The three most common vaginal infections are:

  • yeast;
  • bacterial vaginosis (BV);
  • trichomoniasis (trich)

A vaginal discharge is normal. If you have a vaginal infection you may notice a change in the colour, amount or odour of the discharge.


7. Services and Supports

Services and supports offered through programs may vary, but can include:

  • Needle exchange
  • Fentanyl and benzos drug checking strips
  • Free condoms
  • Education and information
  • Publicly funded vaccinations
  • HIV, Hep A, B, and C testing and treatment
  • STI testing and treatment
  • Pregnancy testing
  • Referrals to supports and services
  • Emergency contraception

Please check the individual listing to confirm the services each program offers.

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