Preventing STIs

STIs are very common. Anyone having unprotected sex can get an STI. It makes no difference if you're straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ). STIs can be treated and managed. But if left untreated, they can cause serious health problems including life-threatening infections and infertility.

Wearing condoms consistently and correctly during all types of sexual activities is the only way to reduce your risk of getting an STI. You can get an STI by:

  • having unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex
  • coming in contact with blood or bodily fluids if you’re sharing sex toys

Learn more about STI prevention.

STI symptoms

Common STI symptoms include:

  • unusual discharge with an odor from the vagina or penis
  • a rash, sores or itching on or around the genitals
  • burning or discomfort during urination
  • pain in the lower abdomen
  • bleeding from the vagina other than during a monthly period

Some STIs don't show or cause any symptoms in the early stages. Even if you feel perfectly fine, you could still pass an STI on to someone else if you have unprotected sex. Always take steps to protect yourself and others by using condoms consistently and correctly during sexual activity.

How to find out if you have an STI

There is only one way to be 100% sure. You have to take an STI test.

When to get tested

After you’ve had unprotected sex (i.e., did not use the condom correctly and consistently or the condom broke during the sexual activity).

Where to go for testing

  • a sexual health clinic — you can request an anonymous test where you don’t have to give your name or any personal information
  • your doctor or nurse practitioner

Who pays for the test

Testing is free for all Ontarians.

STI treatment

When diagnosed early, most STIs can be treated and cured with antibiotics or other medication. If you have an STI, abstain from having sex until you finish your course of antibiotics to prevent spreading the infection to partners.

Untreated STIs may not show symptoms but can lead to serious problems in sexual, reproductive and overall health.

Visit Sexual Health Ontario to learn more about the symptoms and treatment of STIs.

Who needs to know you’ve been infected

You need to alert all of your past and present sexual partners if you are diagnosed with an STI. They need to be treated at the same time as you to prevent them from re-infecting you or anyone else.

Visit Sexual Health Ontario for tips on how to talk to your sexual partner(s) about an STI.

If you prefer, your public health nurse can contact your partner(s) for you. Your name will be kept confidential.

If you have questions