All About STIs

Intro to STIs

Am I at Risk?

Say you’re in a monogamous relationship or you’re always really, really careful when it comes to your sexual behaviour – you’re still at risk of getting an STI.

If you are a sexually active young adult living in Canada, the clear answer to this question is an unambiguous yes! Even if you consider yourself to be conservative and cautious when it comes to sexual behaviour, you may be at higher risk for STIs than you think.

Even if you only have one sexual partner at a time (i.e., you are monogamous), your risk for STIs can be quite high. It’s common for people to bring asymptomatic STIs with them into a new relationship. These infections can have some serious implications for your health and well-being so this is something you should definitely pay attention to.

What You Can’t See

Contrary to popular belief, just because you can’t see an STI doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Many STIs go unnoticed. That is, of course, until it’s too late and you already have it.

One of the greatest myths about STIs is that you can tell when you have one. Not true! You may be surprised to learn that many individual cases of STI have no symptoms right away or at the moment of contact.

Yes, some people with common STIs can have symptoms like genital warts for HPV, lesions or blisters for genital herpes, and genital discharge and pain for chlamydia.

But in many cases, a person with one of these STIs has no physical signs of the infection even though they can still transmit it. In fact, most cases of HPV, genital herpes, and chlamydia transmission involve a person with an asymptomatic infection passing it to an uninfected partner.

More Common Than You Think

Many people are infected with an STI right now. And over your entire lifetime, the chances of you getting an STI are pretty high.

What are the STIs that you are most likely to get and how common are they? This section provides some basic information on the most common STIs and what the implications for your health are. You’ll probably be surprised at the numbers!

In the chart, you will see some conservative estimates, based on the scientific literature, for what percentage of young adults in their twenties are currently infected with different STIs. There are two things that you will notice right away:

STIs are very common among young adults. For example, it is estimated that up to 40% of sexually active young women may be infected with an STI by age 191 and up to 10.5% of people will have been infected with genital herpes by age 302. Even if you have only had a couple of sexual partners in your lifetime, there is a high probability that you have had sex with someone who has an STI.

STIs tend to be more common in women than in men. This is mostly because women are biologically more susceptible to STIs than men. In other words, STI transmission is more efficient from men to women than vice versa.

1 Forhan, S.E., et al (2009). Prevalence of sexually transmitted infections among female adolescents aged 14 to 19 in the United States. Pediatrics, 124, 1505-1512.

2 CDC. (2010). Seroprevalence of herpes simplex virus type 2 among persons aged 14-49 years, United States, 2005-2008. MMWR Weekly, 59, (15); 456-459.

Types of STIs

HPV (Human Papillomavirus)

HPV is the most common STI around the world. Researchers believe that more than 50% of sexually active people will have HPV at some time in their lives

What to expect:

There are 40 different types of HPV that can be sexually transmitted. Types 6 and 11 can cause genital warts; types 16 and 18 can lead to cervical cancer.

Genital warts are common and often look like cauliflower-shaped growths or small hard lumps or skin tags. They can appear anywhere in the genital and rectal areas but can be very hard to see, so people often have them without knowing. This virus can still be passed on even without visible warts. As your body beats the virus, the warts will eventually go away.

Treatments:

Genital warts often return and need to be treated several times. Treatments include:

  • Cryotherapy, the most common treatment, uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the warts
  • Topical solutions like podophyllin, usually used in combination with cryotherapy
  • Extremely resistant warts can be treated with electrocautery or laser removal
More about this STI:
  • In up to 70% of cases, an HPV infection will be cleared from your body within a year and up to 90% will clear within 2 years.1
  • Once the warts are gone, you may still be infectious for some time until your body clears the virus.
  • Because some types of HPV can lead to cervical cancer, it is important for women to get regular Pap tests to detect any abnormal changes in the cells of your cervix. If the Pap test detects these changes, doctors can treat it by removing the tissue well before it becomes cervical cancer.
The bottom line:

HPV is very common and you can carry and transmit an asymptomatic HPV infection long after you get it. Using condoms consistently can significantly reduce the probability of transmission.

Consult with your doctor if you think you are infected.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007). “Human Papillomavirus: HPV Information for Clinicians.” Altanta, GA. Department of Health and Human Services.

HSV (Herpes Simplex Virus)

HSV is one of the most common STIs there is, and once you have the virus, it will stay with you even when you aren’t having an outbreak.

What to expect:

There are two basic types of the herpes simplex virus: HSV-1 and HSV-2.

  • HSV-1 is the virus that can cause cold sores on your lips and facial area. Although most people have been exposed to HISV-1 only a minority of people end up getting cold sores. HSV-1 can also infect the genital area, such as when a person shedding HSV-1 from their lips transmits to their partner’s genitals during oral sex.
  • Most HSV-2 infections, referred to as genital herpes, are the result of genital-to-genital contact.

If you get infected, you may or may not have outbreaks, which are small painful blisters in the genital area. If you are infected, but have no outbreaks, you can still transmit the virus to other people. In fact, this is how most cases of genital herpes are transmitted.

Treatments:

There is currently no cure that can get rid of the virus. Treatments like acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir have been developed which can shorten or stop outbreaks and reduce the chances of sexual transmission, but the virus will still remain.

The first outbreak typically occurs anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks after infection. In addition to the blisters or sores, an initial outbreak often includes fever, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, fatigue, and muscle aches.

If you think you are having a first outbreak, it’s important that you see a doctor immediately. Don’t wait around to see if the sores go away – quick treatment will reduce the length of the outbreak.

More about this STI:
  • By the time people are in their 30s, an estimated 1 in 10 has genital herpes even if they don’t know it1
  • Many people are able to lead happy lives, including rewarding relationships and rewarding sex lives, even with HSV
The bottom line:

Most genital herpes infections don’t show any symptoms, so the infected person doesn’t know it’s there, but they can still transmit the virus. If you think you are having a first outbreak, go see your doctor immediately.

1 CDC. (2010). Seroprevalence of herpes simplex virus type 2 among persons aged 14-49 years, United States, 2005-2008. MMWR Weekly, 59, (15); 456-459.

Chlamydia


Common among teenagers and young adults in their 20s, chlamydia is easy to treat once detected. That is, if you detect it before it does any serious damage.

What to Expect:

Many people think that if they got chlamydia they would know it – that there would be some kind of unpleasant discharge or that it would hurt to urinate. However, these symptoms don’t usually show up until 1 to 3 weeks after you’ve been infected. Some people with chlamydia have no signs or symptoms of the infection so they can transmit the infection to their sex partners without knowing it.

If left untreated, chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, tubal infertility, chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy, and make you more susceptible to contracting HIV.

Treatments:

Chlamydia is actually quite easy to treat if it’s caught early, before doing any major damage to your reproductive system. It can be cured with medications like azithromycin or doxycycline. If you are treated it is important that your partner is too or else they’ll just give it back to you or to someone else. See your doctor immediately.

More about this STI:
  • Tubal infertility, a result of leaving chlamydia untreated, is a leading cause of infertility among Canadians
  • This STI is usually asymptomatic
  • Chlamydia is a bacterial infection
The bottom line:

Chlamydia is more common than most people think and it can hurt you. In many cases, there are no symptoms. Using latex, polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms reduces the chances you will be infected.

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea may not be as common as some other STIs, but if you have unprotected sex with someone who has it, there is a good chance you will be infected.

What to expect:

Gonorrhea is very similar to chlamydia in that they are both bacterial infections and share comparable symptoms. Someone with gonorrhea might experience: vaginal irritation, discharge and painful urination in women; a discharge from the penis that may look like white puss and painful urination in men.

One major difference between the two is that symptoms often show up more quickly, sometimes within a few days. But other times, they may not show up at all.

Gonorrhea can have profound negative health consequences, particularly for women, when not treated promptly. These negative outcomes include Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), ectopic pregnancy, and infertility.

Treatments:

Gonorrhea can be effectively treated with a single dose of antibiotics in pill form. Since a high proportion of people who have gonorrhea also have chlamydia, it’s likely you’ll also be tested for chlamydia if you have symptoms for gonorrhea.

See a doctor if you think you are infected.

More about this STI:
  • Gonorrhea is very infectious
  • This infection can be passed whether symptoms are showing or not
  • You can protect yourself against this infection by consistently using a condom
The bottom line:

If you have unprotected sex with an infected person, the chances that you will be infected are quite high. So, if a current or past sexual partner informs you that they have been diagnosed with gonorrhea, it’s very important that you get tested and treatment right away.

HBV (Hepatitis B Virus)

HBV is a dangerous STI that infects the liver. A vaccine is available to prevent infection.

What to expect:

Many people infected with hepatitis B virus have no symptoms. When symptoms do show, they include: vomiting, flu-like symptoms, fatigue, loss of appetite, and yellowing of the skin and eyes.

Most people infected with HBV will be left with few, if any, lasting health consequences; however, a small percentage of people can suffer significant liver damage as a result of the infection.

HBV is transmitted when infected saliva, blood, vaginal fluid, or semen (come) enters the blood stream.

Treatments:

Most people with HBV clear the infection but about 10% don’t. They remain infected permanently and will always be able to transmit the virus to others.

More about this STI:

Hepatitis B has become less common in Canada in recent years, partly because many people have been vaccinated against it. It’s likely that condoms reduce the risk of transmission because HBV sized viruses are too big to pass through latex, polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms.

See a doctor if you think you are infected.

The bottom line:

If you have not been vaccinated against HBV and think you may be at risk, you should get tested for the virus and consider being vaccinated.

HIV/AIDS

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) doesn’t get as much attention as it used to. Still, over 65,000 Canadians have tested positive for HIV, there are about 2,500 new HIV infections each year, and it is estimated that over a quarter of people with HIV in Canada don’t know they have it.

What to expect:

Soon after a person has been infected with HIV they may experience flu-like symptoms, such as a fever or sore throat. These symptoms will disappear and the person may have no further symptoms of the infection for up to 10 years or longer. During this time when a person has no symptoms, he or she can still transmit the virus to other people.

As the HIV-infected person begins to develop AIDS, a number of symptoms and conditions may occur. These include swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, and significant weight loss. As AIDS progresses, the person’s immune system is weakened and increasingly unable to fight off some types of disease. As a result, the person becomes more vulnerable to pneumonia, neurologic disease (e.g., AIDS dementia), and several types of cancer. If the HIV infection has progressed to full blown AIDS, the person usually dies within a few years.

See a doctor if you think you are infected.

Treatments:

A number of drugs have been developed to treat HIV/AIDS. So far, the most effective treatment is a combination of drugs called highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). HAART has been effective in significantly extending the life-span of people living with HIV.

More about this STI:
  • Men having sex with men is still the risk category with the highest number of new HIV infections
  • New HIV infections that occur among women and that are attributable to unprotected sex with men has been increasing
The bottom line:

No one who is sexually active is immune from the possibility of HIV infection. If used consistently, latex, polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms are very effective in preventing HIV infection.

Getting Tested

Do I Need a Test?

If you’re sexually active, getting tested for STIs is definitely a good idea, especially if you have had sex without a condom. Getting tested for some of the common STIs is easy. The good news is that most colleges and universities have student health services where you can get tested for STIs. There are also public health clinics that perform STI tests.

Here are some reasons to go for STI testing. If one or more of the statements describes you, then you should go to a doctor or walk-in clinic to find out about appropriate STI testing:

  • You have been informed by a current or past sexual partner that they have been diagnosed with an STI
  • You have possible symptoms of an STI (e.g., sores/bumps on your genitals, discharge from your penis or vagina)
  • You have had more than one sexual partner in the recent past (e.g., 6 months)
  • You have been engaging in unprotected sex (e.g., penile/vaginal or penile/anal intercourse without a condom)

If you are a sexually active woman, you should receive Pap testing (to detect abnormal changes to your cervix caused by HPV infection) as a regular part of your health care.

What to Expect

Some people are a little nervous or embarrassed about going for STI testing. It can help to know in advance how the process works so you will arrive feeling prepared.

The first thing you should know is that college and university health services and walk-in medical clinics do STI tests all the time. It’s a routine, everyday thing for them so don’t hesitate to call to make an appointment or walk into the clinic to ask for STI testing.

So what will happen once you’re at the doctor’s office or clinic? You will likely be asked some straightforward questions beginning with why you would like STI testing. If you tell the doctor or nurse that you have symptoms, like sores or bumps on your genitals or an unusual discharge, they will want to look at your genital area.

You don’t need to have symptoms to request STI testing. Symptoms or no symptoms, be prepared to be asked some questions about your sexual behaviour so that the doctor or nurse will be able to determine if STI testing is appropriate and which tests to conduct. If you think you have contracted a particular STI you need to tell the doctor or nurse which one.

Here are some of the types of questions you may be asked when you go for STI testing:

  • What brings you to the office today?
  • I understand that you are concerned about an STI. Is there a reason why you think you may have contracted an STI?
  • How many sexual partners do you currently have?
  • How many sexual partners have had in the past 6 months?
  • Do you have sex with men, women, or both?
  • Do you have oral sex, intercourse, anal sex?
  • Do you use condoms?
  • Do you have a sexual partner who has been diagnosed with an STI?

There’s no need to feel strange or embarrassed about going for testing. Yes, you may be asked some questions you’re not used to being asked, especially by strangers, but at the end of the day the most important thing is to get it checked out and, if necessary, properly diagnosed and treated so you can get on with your life.

Tests: Chlamydia

Testing for Chlamydia

Chlamydia is very common among young adults. Most cases have no symptoms, but if left untreated, can cause serious damage to your reproductive system.

Testing for chlamydia is pretty straightforward: a small swab is used to take a sample from the woman’s cervix or the opening of the man’s penis. Some clinics may also have urine testing. It’s very important that your partner is tested and treated so that you do not pass the infection back and forth.

Tests: Herpes

Diagnosing Genital Herpes

If you have symptoms such as sores or blisters, testing is fairly straightforward. Using a swab, a sample is taken from the sore or blister and sent to a lab for a viral culture test which will determine whether it is HSV-1 (the cold sore virus) or HSV-2 (the genital herpes virus) or neither.

Tests: Gonorrhea

Testing for Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection like chlamydia. While much less common than chlamydia, it can be just as damaging, particularly to women. Testing is similar to the testing for chlamydia: a swab is used to take a sample from the cervix or penis opening. Some clinics may offer urine tests for men.

Tests: HPV

Diagnosing HPV

HPV is diagnosed in several ways. Genital warts are usually diagnosed by a having doctor look at them. They often look like fleshy cauliflower growths, small hard lumps, or skin tags. The doctor may apply a white vinegar solution: if the growths turn white it is an indication that they are genital warts. Pap tests, which women should be getting regularly, are designed to detect cervical abnormalities that are usually caused by an HPV infection of the cervix.

Most HPV infections have no visible symptoms, so without visible genital warts, it’s very difficult to tell if you have HPV. Since most HPV infections clear on their own over time, the need for developing an HPV test has not been a priority. There is a DNA test for HPV but it is only used as a follow-up procedure for women over 30 years of age with abnormal Pap test results.

Tests: HBV

Testing for Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B (HBV) is diagnosed using a blood test. If you test positive for the virus, you will need to have further blood tests to see if it has damaged your liver.

Tests: HIV

Testing for HIV

The HIV test – also known as the AIDS test – is a blood test that determines if you have been infected with HIV. The test does not identify the virus itself but rather detects if your body has produced antibodies to the virus. There are a couple of important things about HIV testing that you should keep in mind:

  • It takes three months after you have been infected with HIV for a blood test to detect HIV antibodies in your system. So if you had unprotected sex a few days ago you are going to have to wait a couple of months before to be able to tell if you have been infected.
  • It will take 1 to 3 weeks for the results to come back and you will have to get them in-person. There is a Rapid Test for HIV that some clinics offer that will give you the results right away. However, if the rapid test is positive, you will need to have the regular test in order to confirm the results.

Some people are concerned about the confidentiality of their HIV test results. There are two different ways this is handled:

  • First, there is what is called a confidential test. With a confidential test, the results are included in your medical file and only medical and health professionals, like the local medical officer of health are allowed to see unless you give written permission for them to share it with someone else. However, if you apply for insurance you will need to supply your medical file, which will include your HIV test results.
  • The second is what’s called an anonymous test. With an anonymous test, the results are not included in your medical file. If you want to get an HIV test and want it to be anonymous check with local clinics in your area to see if they offer it.

Reducing the Risk

Risk Chart

Any physical contact between people brings some risk of disease or infection – the same is true of sexual contact and STIs. Giving precise estimates of the likelihood of contracting an STI from an infected partner as a result of sexual activity is, in most cases, impossible; in other words, it’s not an exact science.

You will notice that the terms used in the chart are comparative and broad. It should be used as an approximate guide to comparing the relative STI risks of different sexual acts. For example, the chart indicates that using a condom during intercourse is “lower risk” for various STIs than having intercourse without a condom. These risk estimates may help you to make decisions about your own sexual behaviour.

STI Risk Estimates

Very Little or No Risk Lower Risk Higher Risk Level of Risk Unknown
Kissing HIV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea HBV HSV (HSV-1 is very common on the lips & mouth area) HPV
Mutual Masturbation HBV, HIV, HPV, HSV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea
Performing Oral Sex HBV, HIV, HSV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea HPV
Receiving Oral Sex HIV, HSV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea HPV
Penis-Vagina Intercourse (No Condom) HBV, HIV, HPV, HSV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea
Penis-Vagina Intercourse (Condom) HBV, HIV, HPV, HSV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea
Penis-Anus Intercourse (No Condom) HBV, HIV, HPV, HSV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea
Penis-Anus Intercourse (Condom) HBV, HIV, HPV, HSV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea
HBV = Hepatitis B
HIV = Human immunodeficiency virus
HPV = Human Papillomavirus
HSV = Herpes Simplex Virus

Your Sexual Health Plan


Having a plan means you’ve thought about your future, where you’re going, and what you need to do along the way. The same is true with sexual planning.

At first glance the concept of a personal sexual health plan may seem a little strange. But think about it: many of us plan out important parts of our life whether it’s financial and educational goals or things like physical fitness.

Many people even plan out things like what kind of relationship they want or when in their life they’d like to get married. So how come so many people just wing-it when it comes to sex? Maybe that’s why so many people end up with STIs or wake up the next morning regretting the night before.

So what is a sexual health plan anyway?

It’s sitting down and deciding what you do and don’t want to do sexually over the short, medium and long-term. It’s about deciding what’s right for you when it comes to sex and once you’ve done that you won’t have to make spur of the moment decisions about sex, which can be fueled by lust, alcohol, drugs, or emotions.

Sexual Plan Points may include:

Protection
  • I will carry condoms with me at all times – just in case
  • I will always use a condom
Testing
  • I will go for regular STI testing
  • I will speak to a health professional about safer sex and STIs
What’s Your Sexual Health Plan?

If you don’t have an answer that rolls off your tongue maybe you should sit down and think about it. Pull out a piece of paper and write down your sexual health plan.

Here are some questions to get started:

  • If you haven’t had sex yet, is now the right time to start or do you want to wait a while?
  • If you do want to start having sex, what does that mean for you? Intercourse? Oral sex? Mutual masturbation?
  • If you are going to have sex, or you are already, what about condoms? Is it time to start carrying one with you?

Condoms

How Effective Are They?

Condoms: easy to use, easy to buy – and they are very effective in preventing STI transmission and pregnancy.

Consistently using latex, polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms is very effective in significantly reducing your risk of transmitting or becoming infected with an STI. The only things more effective than condoms in reducing STI risk are to not have sex at all or to make sure that both you and your partner(s) are STI free – although that’s very difficult to do with absolute certainty.

Laboratory tests have shown that latex, polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms block particles the size of HIV, HPV, HSV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. And, studies comparing people who use condoms consistently with people who don’t use condoms during sex have found that consistent condom use reduces the risk of contracting HIV, HSV, HPV, chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Also, if used correctly condoms are very effective in preventing pregnancy, making them one of the most effective contraceptives available.

Let’s be clear: sex with condoms is not 100% risk free, but if you use condoms your STI risk will be much lower. The bottom line is that if you are a sexually active young adult, whether you are single or in a relationship, whether you have sex once in a while or every night, using condoms will reduce your risk of STI.

Talking to Your Partner

Talking about condom use with your partner doesn’t have to be weird. Like everything else, there’s a time and place and approach.

Some people might feel a little awkward or embarrassed about talking about condoms with their partner. Don’t be embarrassed! By bringing up the topic of condom use you are sending a loud and clear signal to someone you are interested in: yes, you want to have sex and yes you’re smart enough to take care of your sexual health.

Maybe it’s as simple as whispering to partner: “I always use condoms” or “I’ve got condoms”. Or if you are feeling especially flirty, you can simply hold the condom up and wink.

Of course, the whole thing is easier if you have a condom with you. When things start getting hot you can pull it out – “look what I found”. If your partner is someone you have been getting to know for a while and this is the first time you’re going to have sex, you can say something like “I saw these at the student health centre. I thought of you and grabbed a couple”.

However you bring it up, it’s a good idea to plan out in advance when you will bring it up. For most people, the best time is before the clothes have come off. By that time, it’s all about passion and pleasure and it’s much easier to forget or put it out of your mind, especially if you’ve had a few drinks.

Probably at some point before or soon after physical contact has begun but before clothes start to come off is best. Talking about condoms doesn’t have to break the mood, in fact it can put both partners at ease – now you both know sex is going to happen and it’s going to be protected.

Saying “No” to No Condom

Saying “no” can be hard – luckily there are so many other ways to say it. You can say nope, no way, nada, nuh-uh… so long as you get your point across.

If your partner seems reluctant the first thing you can say is “I want to be with you, but condoms are part of the package when you sleep with me”.

Let’s think about this for a second. If your partner doesn’t want to use condoms with you they probably tried to talk their way out of using them with previous partners. All the more reason why you need to stand firm now. “You know what they say – no glove, no love! And that’s the bottom line for me.”

Especially if this is a first time partner, and you are still getting push back, it’s time to think about showing them the door. Here are some excuses you might get and good responses you can give:

“Don’t worry, I’m definitely clean”

“That’s good! I probably am too. Lots of people have STIs and don’t know it. So I use condoms. That way I don’t have to worry about anything except having a good time.”

“I love you! It’s just you and me now. I don’t want anything to come between us”

“I feel the same way. I feel so close when we’re making love – it’s amazing! Part of us being a couple is taking care of each other and, at least for me, that means using condoms. I feel like were in a good place right now. Let’s not mess with that and just stick with condoms.”

“It’s starting to sound like you don’t trust me”

“It’s not about trust. I want to feel relaxed and secure when we’re doing it. I’m used to using condoms and I don’t want to stop.”

“Condoms take the fun out of sex. It doesn’t feel as good”

“Don’t worry, were going to have some fun! I’ll make you feel good.”

“Condoms ruin the mood”

“Not for me. I feel more relaxed when I’m using condoms. They put me in the mood – and when I’m in the mood it’s better for both of us”.

“As soon as I put that thing on, I’ll lose my hard-on”

“Let’s use extra lube on you first – I’ll get you good and hard. We can try different condoms and try different positions to see which we like best.” NOTE: lube should be condom compatible. Always read directions before use.

Tip: If you’re worried about losing an erection, don’t put the condom on while lying on your back – it’s easier for the blood to flow out of the penis. Put the condom on while kneeling or standing up.

“But I’m On The Pill”

The pill is a great method of birth control, but it does absolutely nothing in the way of protecting you against getting an STI. Keep condoms in the mix.

Sometimes as two people become a couple they decide to use the oral contraceptive pill to prevent pregnancy. Or maybe you’re single and on the pill. By now you should know how common STIs with no symptoms are and be thinking that continuing to use condoms is a good idea. Here is how you can talk to your partner about continuing to use condoms after starting the pill:

  • If you’ve just gotten your prescription for the pill you can say to your partner, “I’m glad to be on the pill now. My doctor reminded me to keep using condoms as a backup and to stay healthy. And she’s right, let’s keep using them”.
  • If your partner doesn’t understand why you want to use condoms while you are on the pill or is pressuring you not to use condoms, you can say, “My doctor told me to keep using them. The pill isn’t perfect and either of us could pass on an STI that we didn’t even know we had. Support me on this.”

Choosing a Condom

You’ve got many, many options when it comes to condom shopping – and picking out a few new ones to try is only half the fun.

Most latex and polyurethane condoms will fit most men. But as a regular condom user it’s a good idea to find the one that you like best.

Like a good pair of jeans, finding a condom that’s a good fit is important. Fortunately, because latex, polyurethane and polyisoprene condoms are quite flexible and are designed to be “form-fitting”, fit is not a problem in most cases. But if you or your partner are particular, there are many different shapes and sizes to choose from.

Condoms come in different shapes, sizes, textures and colours with a variety of lubricants for enhanced sensation.

You definitely want to choose a condom that’s made with high quality materials that effectively block sperm and STIs, which means it needs to be made of either latex or polyurethane. Most of us are familiar with latex condoms so if you haven’t seen or touched a polyurethane condom, check it out. The material isn’t quite as flexible as latex, but polyurethane is thinner and transfers heat more easily.

If you have a latex allergy, and lots of people do, then polyurethane condoms are definitely your answer.

A quick trip to the store and you will find a whole condom section. Take your partner along. Or pick up a few different kinds and have some fun testing them until you find the one that’s just right for the two of you.

Always follow the packaging instructions.

How To Use Condoms Correctly


Using a condom is simple – BUT incorrect usage can lead to condom slippage or breakage, which reduces their effectiveness! Take the time to read this section so you know you’re doing everything you can to stay safe!

BEFORE SEX:

  1. Use a new condom for every sex act. Lesions, pre-ejaculate secretions, semen, vaginal secretions and blood can all transmit infectious organisms. Check the expiry date. Tear open the package carefully. Do not use fingernails, teeth, scissors or anything that can damage the condom.
  2. Before any sexual contact, place the condom on the head of the erect penis. Be sure the rolled up ring is on the outside and leave space at the tip to hold semen when you ejaculate.
  3. Squeeze the tip gently so no air is trapped inside. Hold tip while you unroll condom all the way to the base of the erect penis. If the condom doesn’t unroll, it may be on backwards, damaged or too old. Throw it away and start over with a new condom.
  4. AFTER SEX:

  5. Immediately after ejaculation, hold the condom in place and withdraw the penis while it is still erect to avoid spilling semen. Dispose of a used condom by wrapping it in tissue and throwing it in the trash. Wash your hands and genitals and surrounding areas with soap and water.

To view a printable, illustrated guide of the above step-by-step instructions, click here.