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Home  STITesting

Why Test?

Getting tested regularly for STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) remains one of the most effective ways to identify and prevent complications from viruses and bacteria that you may pick up from sexual activity. Typically, STIs are easy to test, treat and/or manage. Early detection helps prevent the spread of those infections to your partner/s, and ensures that you remain healthy yourself. 

This is especially true if you do not like to, or are unable to, access forms of protection like condoms or PrEP. In Toronto, STI tests are all available for free, even without a health card, and there are anonymous HIV testing sites, ensuring that your private information remains that way. 

Depending on the frequency you are having sex, and the number of different partners you are having sex with, it is recommended you get STI testing anywhere from every 3 months to once a year. Talk to your Doctor about what’s right for you. If you are HIV+, consider making routine STI testing part of your regular bloodwork.

You may also come across a situation where a sexual partner or a public health nurse informs you that you may have been exposed to one or more STIs. In these situations, it is best to follow the instructions from the nurse and/or try to get a confirmatory STI test/s as soon as you can.

What Do Different Types of STI Testing Look Like?
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Getting tested regularly with no signs or symptoms is typically called routine testing. It is important to remember that some STIs have no symptoms, or only have symptoms for a short while. STIs do not go away on their own. Routine testing is therefore important in keeping yourself free from infections.

STIs may also affect certain, or multiple parts, of your body and sometimes in very specific ways. Due to this, each test may look different.

Generally, STI testing for guys take 3 forms:

  • Blood draws/Finger prick
  • Swabs
  • Urine sampling

A blood draw is exactly what it sounds like. A needle and syringe are used to extract a small amount of blood from a vein in your arm. After the injection site is sterilized with an alcohol wipe, the blood is collected by a nurse, or another qualified healthcare practitioner, and then sent to a lab where it is tested. Results are then sent to you in 1-2 weeks. While not all labs have the same practices, generally you will only be contacted in the event that something was detected. 

Additionally, a blood draw can also take the form of a finger prick or rapid test. In this scenario, only a few drops of blood are taken from a finger which is pierced with a small sterile lance. The blood is then combined with a solution and results are available in less than 20 minutes. 

Drawing blood by needle or finger prick is very safe. The most common unwanted side effects are bruising (the skin temporarily turning purple/pink) and pain at the injection site. Any pain at the injection site from a needle will go away in a few minutes, hours or in rare cases days,  and can be mostly prevented by applying pressure to the injection site for a few moments after the blood is drawn.  You should also avoid heavy lifting with the arm/finger blood was taken from for several hours after to avoid dislodging the clot formed and causing additional bleeding from the site.


Swabbing involves taking one fresh, sterile swab and running it over, or between, the area to be tested to get a sample. This will generally either be your mouth and/or your anus. The swab is then packaged in a solution and sent to a laboratory for testing.

When getting routine testing be sure to swab every hole you use when you have sex!

If you never get fucked (bottom) during sex, then your anus or front hole does not need to be swabbed. Similarly, if you never give blowjobs, then you do not need a throat swab. If you use your butt, front hole or your mouth to give sexual pleasure then be sure to get those areas swabbed.

Research shows that self-swabbing is just as effective as having someone else do it for you. If you feel shy, then ask your health care practitioner if you can do it on your own after they show you how. Penile swabs (your dick) do exist, but they are not very common anymore as they can be uncomfortable and evasive. Front hole swabs are another alternative to collecting urine samples for trans guys.

Swabbing does not really have any unwanted side effects and is about as safe as it gets. The worst thing about it is that it may feel uncomfortable (as the swab is dry) and could potentially activate your gag reflex if you are having your mouth swabbed.


Urine sampling involves peeing into a sterile cup. The urine is then refrigerated and sent to a lab for testing. Urine is usually sterile. If there is an infection in your urethra (or urinary tract), peeing flushes some of that bacteria out, which then ends up in the urine and is detected using tests.

A mid-stream urine sample involves the same as above, only the urine from when you begin peeing is discarded (into the toilet) and only the pee from the “middle” of your stream is collected. This is typically done because bacteria from the surface of your penis (or urinary tract opening) could contaminate the stream, giving a false result.


 

STIs to Test for
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Check out the STIs below that you should be asking to be tested for:

HIV
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HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It can be sexually transmitted or transmitted via chest milk or sharing needles. It affects your immune system. Without HIV treatment, your immune system can become too weak to fight off serious illnesses, and you can eventually become sick with life-threatening infections and cancers. This is called AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).  

HIV is usually diagnosed by testing your blood for the presence of antibodies to the virus.

Generally, HIV testing takes 3 forms and vary in how quickly they can detect an HIV infection:

  • Home Testing
  • Rapid HIV testing
  • Clinical or Laboratory Testing

Insti HIV Self-Testing (or Home Testing) will soon be available in Canada and works by pricking your finger to produce a small blood sample. This sample is then tested, and the results are shown within one minute. Results are easy to interpret by non-professionals, with a single blue dot indicating a non-reactive (“HIV negative”) result and two blue dots indicating a reactive (“HIV positive”) result.  

This self-testing technology accurately identifies almost 100% of people who have HIV and will incorrectly produce a reactive (“false HIV positive”) result in about 0.5% of HIV-negative people. Like with any HIV antibody test, this self-test detects antibodies produced in response to HIV, which can take up to three months to develop after an exposure.

Upon Insti Self-Testing kits hitting the market in early 2021, the cost is anticipated to be around $40.


Rapid Tests look for antibodies to HIV using either a sample of your blood, drawn from a vein or a finger prick, or fluids collected on a treated pad that is rubbed on your upper and lower gums. A positive reaction on a rapid test requires an additional blood test to confirm the results. 


Doctors' offices or other health care settings can perform this additional testing called Clinical or Laboratory Testing. No test can confirm HIV infection immediately after you are exposed, however. Tests that provide the earliest results are those that:

  • Look for antigens — proteins that develop within the first few weeks after infection
  • Evaluate your blood for genetic material from the virus

These tests that detect antibodies take longer. To get accurate results, you will need to have been infected for at least three weeks.

Rates of HIV diagnoses have steadily been increasing in Toronto since 2013 so it is important to get tested and seek treatment if diagnosed. Those diagnosed with HIV, and given antiretroviral therapy, can live long and healthy lives and avoid passing HIV onto their sexual partner/s.


 

Syphilis
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Syphilis is a bacterial infection acquired through contact with a very specific type of sore called a chancre sore. You can get syphilis from most sexual activities, such as oral, anal, rimming, and/or front hole sex. You can even get syphilis from kissing! This is because chancre sores can appear around the cock, front hole, butthole, lips, or inside the butt and/or mouth.

It is sometimes hard to tell when you have syphilis, so it is important to get tested for it regularly. Otherwise, severe symptoms could result from an untreated infection. 

The good news is Syphilis is easy to treat if detected by a blood test. If you test positive for Syphilis within a year of probable infection, you simply require a shot of penicillin into a large muscle, typically the ass-cheek. Ensure that you wait until your infection is gone before having sex again. Your doctor will typically order a further blood test to confirm your body has recovered and it is safe for you to resume sexual activity.


 

Gonorrhea
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Gonorrhea is caused by a bacteria and can be contracted in your anus, mouth, and/or front hole from contact with a partner’s sexual fluids.

To get tested for Gonorrhea, you simply need to take a urine test, or a swab test at the site/s of a potential infection.

The treatment for gonorrhea is typically antibiotics for 7 days. Make sure you do not hook up with any partners during this time, as the infection is still contagious while you are on treatment.


 

Chlamydia
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Chlamydia  is a sexually transmitted infection that can infect the throat, anus and rectum and is the most diagnosed STI in Toronto. In 2018 alone, almost 14,000 Torontonians were diagnosed with the bacterium that can cause a discharge and/or a painful burning sensation during urination. 

The good news is testing and treating chlamydia is relatively easy. A urine sample or swab of the sites of suspected infection are taken and if positive, can be treated and cured using antibiotics.


 

Hepatitis A/B/C
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While Hepatitis A/B/C are similar in that all three can affect your liver functioning, they differ in a few important ways. Most notably, their exists vaccines for Hepatitis A and B but not C, and while some bodies may clear the virus’ A and B on their own, C requires treatment to be cured. 

It typically takes two blood tests to tell whether you have Hepatitis C. The first test (an antibody test) checks to see if you have ever encountered the virus. The second test (a PCR or RNA test) checks to see if you have a hepatitis C infection right now.

The Hepatitis C virus can be transmitted via someone encountering the blood of a person with Hep C. Sharing needles, unregulated tattoo or body piercing parlours, and (uncommonly) sex with a person with Hep C

Rates of Hep-C infection have slowly been increasing in Toronto since 2014 so it’s important to make testing for it part of your regular STI screening.


The Hepatitis A virus on the other hand is commonly transmitted through fecal matter and the ingestion of contaminated food and water (eg. not washing your hands after using the bathroom and then preparing food), or through direct contact with an infectious person (such as the sexual act of rimming).


Hepatitis B is most commonly transmitted from mother to child during birth and delivery, as well as through contact with blood or other body fluids, including sex with a Hep B positive partner, and sharing injection-drug equipment.


 

COVID-19
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COVID-19 can be transmitted via sexual acts as it requires proximity to the respiratory droplets of an partner with COVID-19. It can also be spread through contact with objects (such as sex toys) contaminated with the virus. 

There are two kinds of tests available for identifying if you have, or have been, exposed to the virus. One is a viral test (requiring your nasal cavity to be swabbed) which tells you if you have the infection. The other is an antibody test (requiring a blood draw) that might identify if you have ever had COVID-19 in the past.

For the latest information regarding free testing sites for COVID-19 in your area visit www.covid-19.ontario.ca.


 

Where/How to Get Tested
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For reasons relating to length and clarity, we have not covered every possible STI or STI test here. There may be some additional ones that are specific to your circumstances. Always check with your nurse or doctor to see if there is something else you should be looking out for during your sexual health checkup.

For free testing in, and near, the Village check out:

  • The Village Pharmacy: They perform rapid HIV testing every Friday from 10am to 5pm and every Saturday from 10am to 5pm. During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Village Pharmacy does ask that perspective clients please call on the day they would like their test for a telephone pre-screening and to book their appointment. No walk ins. You can reach them by phone at: 416-960-2323.

  • Hassle Free Clinic: They perform both HIV & STI Testing. Contact the clinic between 11am and 4pm from Monday to Friday, and 10am until 2pm on Saturdays, at 416-922-0566 to be screened by phone for COVID-19, and to get an appointment for sexual health testing.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, outreach testing at The 519, ACT, ACAS, Black CAP, MedsExpert, St. Stephen CHC, South Riverdale CHC, Steamworks, and Spa-Excess have been suspended until further notice.

For further testing site suggestions near you visit www.toronto.ca. Alternatively, you can get tested for STI’s or HIV from your family doctor or your local walk-in clinic.


 

Swab Shortages?
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Due to COVID-19 testing using the same swabs often used for STI testing, some testing sites, such as Maple Leaf Medical Clinic, have only limited access to them, and as a result are rationing them. Therefore, some testing sites will NOT be able to screen for STI infections for the next while in the same way as they have been doing in the past. It is also being reported that some testing and treatment sites are at a critical shortage of some of the medications used to treat STI infection, specifically penicillin (which is used to treat to Syphilis). Please be mindful of theses current realities when accessing STI testing and negotiating the sex your having.