Sexual health in Hamilton

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Stigma

Sexually transmitted infections are more common than you would think but often go undiagnosed as individuals fear social repercussions. The social and psychological stigma attached to STIs can prevent individuals from taking the necessary steps to educate, protect and take care of themselves.

Where to go for help:

  • Ask your doctor to test for the STI
  • Student Wellness Centre (MUSC B101)
  • Sexual Health Clinics & Walk-in clinics
  • Sexual Health Information Line (905-528-5894)
  • AIDS and Sexual Health Information Line (1-800-668-2437)
  • The AIDS Network in Hamilton

Prevention measures: 

  • Frequent STI testing
  • Inform your partner(s) of any STIs
  • Practice safer sex

Safer sex: 

  • Familiarize yourself with common STIs and symptoms
  • Have open and honest conversations with your partner(s)
  • Get tested; you can’t assume anything about your sexual health unless you seek answers and strategies to maintaining your health
  • Use protection such as a latex or non-latex condom correctly every time you have sex, or seek alternative
  • Dental dams can be used to stop the spreading of infection. The latex or polyurethane sheets can be used between the mouth and vagina or anus during oral sex. If a dental dam isn’t available, you can cut the tip, and very bottom off of a condom, then cut it in half vertically to create a flat sheet
  • Latex gloves can be used for any type of fingering/hand sex, especially if someone has a cut on their hand. Cotton balls can be used in the finger ends of the gloves to protect your partner from sharp or long fingernails
  • Most people don’t experience symptoms of STIs, so regularly consult your doctor and get tested for STIs

Top 3 most prevalent STIs in Hamilton 

Chlamydia & Gonorrhea infections

What you need to know: 

  • Caused by bacteria
  • You can contract this STI by having unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex or sharing sex toys with an individual with chlamydia

Symptoms:

  • Signs include abnormal discharge from genitals, testicular pain and burning pain during urination, but most infected individuals don’t experience symptoms

Treatment:

  • Can be treated with antibiotics

Other STIs

HIV 

  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus causes a blood borne infection
  • Left untreated, HIV weakens the immune system and leaves the person vulnerable to infections
  • HIV lives in blood, semen, vaginal fluids, anal fluids and breast milk and is transmittable when the virus is present in high enough quantities
  • Testing for HIV is very important; you can have HIV and not know it
  • HIV remains incurable, but HIV-positive individuals on effective treatment can suppress the virus enough that they are no longer capable of transmitting HIV and can live normal healthy lives
  • Individual risk varies and prevention methods for higher risk individuals such as Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) are available

Syphilis

  • Transmitted by skin-to-skin or sexual contact with an individual with syphilis
  • Syphilis first appears as a chest rash or painless sores typically on the genitals or mouth
  • Most people will not experience or notice symptoms
  • Infection can be treated by antibiotics but can progress if left untreated

Please note: This infographic does not use percentages and data tracking as STIs are typically under-reported and individual risk can differ in communities depending on sexual orientation. This is not an exhaustive list of STIs but rather is based on the prevalence of reportable diseases indicated on the City of Hamilton’s Infectious Disease and Environmental Report for Jan. 1 to June 30, 2017.

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Author: Razan Samara

Razan Samara is in her third year of life science studies (probably for life). You can find her hitting the books and working at the hospital to complete her mental health minor, but most of the time she’s in the Sil’s dungeon office managing the Arts & Culture section as editor. She’s fond of Hamilton’s many galleries, enjoys meaningful talks with chefs at the Farmer’s Market and uses writing to connect with the world around her.