Symptoms, Testing and Treatment
When should I get tested?
You can go for testing whenever you feel you might have been at risk. Treating an STI early can prevent further health complications. It’s a good idea to get tested when:
- You have a new sexual partner(s).
- You or your partners have other sexual partners and it’s been more than three to six months since your last test.
- You notice any changes in your body.
- You had sex with someone who has an STI.
- You had sex without a condom or the condom broke.
Where can STI tests be done?
STI testing can be done at STI specific clinics (like at an Options for Sexual Health clinic, youth clinics, HIM, or other sexual health clinics) or general clinics, like a doctor’s office or walk-in clinic. These clinics will provide confidential testing, diagnosis, and options for treatment (which are usually free in BC).
How to Find a clinic near you:
- You can find an Options for Sexual Health Clinic using our Clinic finder (insert link)
- The BC Centre for Disease Control’s website Smart Sex Resource also has a clinic finder that lists STI clinics in BC
What kind of tests are there?
- There are a variety of tests available for STIs. Generally, all people in BC are tested for Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, HIV, and syphilis. Other tests are chosen based on history and any symptoms.
- There is no one test that will cover all STIs so you may have to give blood, urine, or have a swab taken from your mouth, genitals, or other areas.
- It’s important to share information about the types of sex you are having so that your health care provider can test the sites that may be at risk for STIs.
- For more information on, or to see which test would be used for a specific STI, and which tests you can request when you get your test, visit Smart Sex Resource.
Some STIs are considered a reportable disease which means that it is reported to the public health authorities. This helps public health officials to accurately determine trends, detect unusual occurrences, and monitor the effectiveness of public health interventions. Reporting requirements are mandated by provincial legislation and the list of reportable diseases differs by province/territory.
In British Columbia, this list is available in the Health Act, Communicable Disease Regulation, and includes communicable diseases like measles, tuberculosis, and hepatitis as well as some STIs. Reportable STIs are also listed in the Venereal Disease Act. The reportable STIs in British Columbia are:
- HIV AIDS
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
When an STI result comes back positive for a reportable disease, partners of people diagnosed need to be notified so that they can also be tested, treated, and counselled about STI prevention. This process assists in minimizing the risk of infection to others and re-infection to the original client. If you are diagnosed with an STI a clinician can work with you to figure out the best way to notify sexual partners (by you, with assistance from public health or anonymously)
Signs, Symptoms, and Complications
The signs and symptoms of STIs vary. The signs and symptoms listed below might be a hint that you have an STI, but, some common STIs (i.e., Chlamydia and gonorrhea) can show no symptoms. If something doesn’t feel right you can always ask for an STI test. On rare occasions, STIs without symptoms over a long period of time without treatment can lead to more serious health complications. While these complications are rare they may include infertility, ectopic pregnancy, or giving an infection to a fetus, cancers, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), increased risk of HIV, Epididymitis.
It is important to get to know your own body and to know what is normal and healthy for you. When something seems different, get it checked out.
General STI symptoms
- No symptoms
- Lumps, bumps, swelling, redness in the genital area
- Sores or blisters on the genitals on or around the anus, or mouth
- Irregular growths in the genital area
- Genital discharge (may be unusual-smelling or discoloured)
- Genital itching
- Pain with urination or bowel movements
- Pain with penetration
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting after sexual intercourse
- Lower abdominal pain
- Pain or swelling of glands in the groin area
*We know that the word “vagina” or “penis” is not representative of the words that people may use to describe this part of their body. We use it here only for medical purposes to be as clear as possible. But please feel free to insert the word that you use for your own body. Adapted from LGBTQ UNC: Health Bodies Safer Sex