STBBI Prevention and Testing

Dr. Joshua Aquin MD, Medical Officer of Health, Medical Lead for the WRHA Healthy Sexuality and Harm Reduction program
Last updated: Jun 24, 2024

STBBIs, or Sexually Transmitted and Blood-Borne Infections are illnesses that can spread from person to person through sexual contact or through contact with blood or bodily fluids. There are many types of STBBIs. A few examples include chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, and syphilis. Information about these and other STBBIs can be found here: Manitoba Public Health

Some STBBIs are very common. Chlamydia is the most common STBBI reported in Manitoba, with more than 6,000 new cases per year. But some STBBIs, like herpes simplex virus (HSV) and human papilloma virus (HPV) are not tracked and are even more common. 

Treatments are available for most STBBIs. Infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis can often be cured with a single dose of antibiotics. These treatments are free of charge and are available in most doctors’ offices. Effective treatments are also available for Hepatitis C and HIV; however, HIV requires lifelong treatment and cannot be cured. For more information, see: Health Canada STI Guide

Who should get screened? 

Getting tested for STBBIs is an important way to keep you and your community healthy. Screening tests are available for all people who are sexually active (including but not limited to vaginal, oral, or anal sex), and/​or have other risk factors for STBBIs, such as injection drug use. Routine STBBI testing is also offered to all pregnant persons. Talk to your doctor to find out what testing is right for you. 

Getting tested is important because you can have an STBBI without knowing it. In many cases, there aren’t any symptoms. Testing can help protect you and others, including your baby if you are pregnant, from serious, life-long health issues.

What does screening involve?
Testing for STBBIs usually involves a blood test and a urine sample. Other tests, like swabs and/​or rapid (in-office) tests are sometimes used. Testing is available at doctor’s offices and many other locations in Manitoba: SERC STBBI Testing Guide

How often should I get screened?

Anyone who is sexually active should get tested for all STBBIs as part of routine medical care with your doctor.

If you or your sexual partner have new, multiple or anonymous sexual partners, or if you or your sexual partner inject drugs or share drug use equipment, you should get tested more often (eg: every 3 to 6 months).

Pregnant people should get tested at least 3 times during pregnancy

Anyone who has symptoms of an STBBI or may have been exposed to someone who has a STBBI should get tested as soon as possible. You can learn more from Manitoba Health here.

What if I have symptoms?
More common symptoms include discharge from your penis or vagina, pain with urination, or the appearance of sores or ulcers around your genitals or in your mouth. Left untreated, some STBBIs can cause serious illnesses like infertility, neurological symptoms, or compromise your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to other infections. Each STBBI can cause different symptoms. 

How can I lower my risk? 

There are many ways to protect yourself from STBBIs and reduce or avoid health complications. Some examples include:

  • Use condoms during sex

  • Talk to every partner about STBBIs and safe sex to protect each other

  • Avoid sharing needles

  • Consider taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication to prevent HIV

  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis B and HPV

  • Get tested regularly

Using alcohol, cannabis or other drugs can increase your risk for STBBIs too because it can impair your judgment and lead to riskier sexual behaviour, such as unprotected sex or multiple partners. 

Most birth control methods, including the pill, do not prevent the transmission of STBBIs. Condoms are the only birth control method that helps to prevent STBBIs.

Learn more:

Key takeaways

  • You can have an STBBI without knowing it. In many cases, there aren't any symptoms.

  • Treatments are available for most STBBIs. Some can be cured with a single dose of antibiotics.

  • Screening tests are available for all people who are sexually active, and/or have other risk factors for STBBIs.