I’m writing this to share some recent statistics in Alberta around sexually transmitted Infections (STIs). We all need to know this and I think we equally hold a responsibility to share this with each other in this industry. Simply put, we all need to know it. We need to know when talking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) makes sense for us and when we should be getting tested for STIs.
I bring this information to you from the 2020 report on STIs and HIV in Alberta. It offers an overview of the scene in Alberta, with pertinent information for Calgary, Edmonton and other regions of Alberta. I will share some data and some comments. The link to the report is at the bottom of this post.
Perhaps the most concerning for us are the rates of HIV in Alberta. In particular, the high number of cases of HIV being reported by both men and women aged 30-59 in Alberta. The report also mentioned that women getting diagnosed with HIV in Alberta are coming from heterosexual exposures.
This figure offers a look at case numbers for four STIs in Alberta.
You can quickly find your age group and easily see how the number of cases are distributed amongst these data when reported by binary gender.
Take note of the younger age ranges and think about what might be important considerations for your family.
Men aged 40 – 59 represent the largest number of reported cases of HIV in Alberta in 2020. Men aged 30-39 are nipping at their heels.
Where is everyone else who does not identify as a binary gender? We live in Alberta and sadly it is slow to change here. I am embarrassed there is no data included on intersex and transgender folks or people who do not identify as the currently available binary constructs of gender. I am with you because I believe I am not fairly represented in these data as well.
We all need to be having protected sex. Chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea infections in the throat exist. Folks choose to believe it is a myth or say it does not happen often. It does happen and is happening. We all need to work on reducing the exchange of fluids with strangers and anonymous folks.
If you are not having protected sex, you have the option of taking PrEP before engaging in high risk sexual activity. If unprotected encounters are your bread and butter, you will want to educate yourself on PrEP and start using it. There are different options for taking PrEP, an on demand option and all the time option. When you chose to go bare, PrEP may be your only chance to protect yourself from HIV and reduce the risk of transmitting to those you love if you are infected.
The possibility of HIV is absolutely out there. Heterosexual men and women continue to contract HIV in Alberta. Do not go bare if you are not prepared to handle the possibility of getting HIV. I cannot and I will not engage in unprotected services.
What about testing?
As a client, you should be getting tested for STIs at least every 3-6 months if you are regularly having sex with strangers or anonymous partners.
If you have unprotected sex, or maybe the condom broke or you intentionally had an uncovered encounter, you need to get tested. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to get post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) as soon as you can. If HIV is a concern, you have a 72 hour window to get started on PEP – it is a case of the earlier you start the better. Be aware it is a treatment regime. It involves taking treatment daily for 28 days, where you must not miss a single day.
For STI testing, wait two weeks after the unprotected exposure and then get tested. You need time for the infection to build up and be detectable by laboratory tests. Because tests cannot detect the STI until two weeks after it’s in your system, you may inadvertently transmitted it to others during that time. Having protected sex and limiting fluid exchange while you wait may be your best option. Watch for symptoms and get tested around two weeks after. And yes, you should do this every time you have unprotected exposure. Your risk comfort in relation to the unprotected exposure will ultimately determine when you decide to get tested.
If the condom broke and you are thinking they test for HIV on routine STI tests – they do not. You have to ask for it and then they might hassle you about it. Be aware of this. You can simply say you unintentionally had unprotected sex with a stranger and you are worried. It is your right to be tested, so do ask.
Thank you for keeping us safe.
We all need to educate ourselves on this so that we may more accurately help one another out. Knowing what the risks are and your level of comfort with them are important components of your overall sexual health.
It is a lot of fun when we are safe and we stay protected. I really and truly love it. I want to know I am safe and I want you to feel safe too. Let us continue to protect each other and those we love by taking care of ourselves first. I am thankful that we are always safe and if there is a concern, we always bring it up. I love it.
Thank you again for always keeping our space safe and protected.
References & Resources:
- Alberta Sexually Transmitted Infections and HIV 2020. Read the whole report here: https://open.alberta.ca/publications/9781460145449
- To learn more about PrEP: https://www.catie.ca/prep
- To learn about PEP: https://www.catie.ca/client-publication/pep-preventing-hiv-after-a-potential-exposure
- Shift is my recommendation in Calgary if you need resources. They can help you find out where to get tested and where to go for PrEP in Calgary. They are wonderful. Please support them and all they do to keep us safe. http://www.shiftcalgary.org/
- Centre for Sexuality in Calgary is another great resource. They are also a wonderful resource for questions you may have around sexual health. They are also available to help you with questions about where to get testing and can help you learn more about PrEP and PEP.