A service provided by the BC Centre for Disease Control



Answered Questions

In the years since SmartSexResource launched, we have developed a library of questions asked by you, and answered by our expert sexual health nurses.

Our answered questions library cover a broad range of sexual health topics and common questions we hear at our clinics.

All Q&A (1182)

If a HIV neg male has protected intercourse with a HIV pos female, what are the chances/possibility of infection of the HIV neg male (given condom used correctly and did not break)? How would you rate the risk of the protected intercourse in this case?


It is difficult to give a number or percentage to the chances of getting HIV, because there are many factors that could come into play. There are things that can increase the chances such as a high amount of virus (viral load) in the blood, or having another STI at the same time. Likewise there are things that can lower the chances such as condom use or low viral load.

Condoms provide excellent protection against HIV if, as you note, they are used properly and they do not break or fall off.  In your case it sounds like you are doing that, so your chances of getting HIV should be very low.

Look here for more info on proper condom use.

Please leave a comment to let us know if this answers your question or if you need more info.

Health Nurse

Regarding HIV testing, when is it necessary for one to re-test at 6 months? Under what conditions should one re-test at the 6 months?


I’m not quite sure if you are asking about routine testing or HIV window periods. Here is a bit of info on both:

When to get routine testing depends on things like whether you and your partners have other partners, whether condoms are used and how they are used. Click here for more information on when to get tested. 

For HIV window periods, the virus is usually found in the blood within 3-6 weeks, but it can take up to 3 months. Click here for more information on HIV and testing.

Please leave a comment to let us know if this answers your question or if you need more info.

Health Nurse

Hi, recently found out I have the Herpes HSV2 Virus. My first outbreak was very mild, and not painful, thank god. I wondered if I was to meet a partner who also already had HSV2, could it make my condition worse? If his already was? This may be a stupid question. But I wanted to check. Could regular contact (even the shedding stage) cause my own to get worse? Or not, because my immune system is strong (why my first was mild?) Thanks a lot.


Everyone will respond differently to the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Some people have frequent outbreaks, while other people don’t notice outbreaks at all.

Once you have HSV-2, exposure to the same virus from another person will not make it worse.

The exception may be the time between when you first get HSV-2 and you develop antibodies to HSV-2.This typically takes 3-4 months. During this time it is possible to spread HSV-2 to other parts of your body (autoinoculation).  It is also easier to get HSV-2 in another part of the body from someone who has HSV-2.

The above situation also applies to people who have herpes simplex virus type 1. Having antibodies to one type of HSV may provide some protection against the other type of HSV.

Click here for more information on HSV.

Please leave a comment to let us know if this answers your question or if you need more info.

Health Nurse

Why is Syphilis on the rise?


We have seen an increase in syphilis, starting in 2011. In BC, the majority of cases (almost all) are now in men who have sex with men (MSM), many of whom also have HIV.

The increase is possibly due to a number of things.

One factor may be changes in social networks, otherwise known as “who you hang out with and have sex with”. If an infection gets into a community or social network, then we tend to see rates increase in the group. Sometimes we see a sudden increase in rates. It may reflect a true increase, or it may be that we did more testing in a network of people. Trends over a longer period may be more accurate. 

Changes in how people have sex or sexual practices, such as condom use, could be another factor that plays a part in rising rates in a social network. 

 Increased rates may be related the natural course of syphilis. There are a number of stages of syphilis, and times when it is more infectious. Click here to learn more about syphilis.

Another factor may be that many times people do not notice signs or symptoms that go along with syphilis, and are not aware they have it. Syphilis is easily passed through oral, genital and anal sex.  This is why we recommend routine testing, if you are sexually active and you or your partners have more than one partner.

We will post some more information about syphilis trends in October, when stats for 2011 are available. Please check back with us then.

Please leave a comment to let us know if this answers your question or if you need more info.

Health Nurse

What is a normal size for a penis?


Concern about penis size and shape is pretty normal. Penises are similar to other parts of our bodies ….they are same but a little different between people.

The penis starts growing in puberty, when other body changes also start to happen. That usually happens anywhere between 9 and 18 years of age.

The average adult penis is between five and seven inches long when erect, and much smaller when soft. Some are wider and some thinner.

The penis can get much bigger or just a little bigger with an erection. The size of the penis when it is soft does not relate to size it will be with an erection.

The size of the penis usually has little to do with how sex feels or what kind of sexual partner you are.

Please leave a comment to let us know if this answers your question or if you need more info.

Health Nurse

Which STIs can I get from oral sex?

The most common STIs passed with condomless oral sex are gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia and human papillomavirus (HPV).

Herpes can be passed from the mouth or genitals to a partner’s mouth or genitals.

The chances of getting HIV is considered low. If you had a throat infection, bleeding gums or sores in your mouth, your chances of getting HIV may increase.

Have a look at our ‘Oral sex’ and ‘My chances’ pages for more information.


I can’t use condoms because they kill my erection. Any ideas?


This is an issue for many men, and it can be problem when you want or need to use condoms. There are a few things you can try.

You can start by trying to link condom use with pleasure.

One way to do this is by masturbating with a condom on when you are alone. You can also try masturbating until you are close to ejaculation, and then putting a condom on.

Sometimes it helps to have a partner put on the condom while you continue to do things that arouse you like kissing and touching.

Try a few types of condoms. Sometimes the fit makes a difference. If the condom is too tight it can be uncomfortable, and cause you to lose an erection.

Some men find that the female condom works for them.

 Please leave a comment to let us know if this answers your question or if you need more info.

Health Nurse



I hear that it hurts to get STI testing. Do they need to stick a swab in my penis?


These days you usually don’t need to get a swab in your penis. Most of the time all you have to do for Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea testing, is pee in a cup.

If you have been treated for Gonorrhea you may be asked to return for a swab to make sure that it is gone.

Your health care provider will talk to you about this if they think it is needed. 

For more about STI testing, click here.

Health Nurse

Does my birth control also protect me from STIs?


Some types of birth control including pills, rings, patches, Depo-Provera, intrauterine device (IUD) or intrauterine system (Mirena) don’t protect you from getting an STI.

Condoms or other barriers give good protection for most STIs. Condoms do double duty when they are used for both birth control and STI protection.

Click here to learn more about how to use condoms.

Please leave a comment to let us know if this answers your question or if you need more info.

Heatlh Nurse


I just had some dental work and then gave a guy a blow job. I never use condoms for blowjobs. But now I am worried because my gums are bleeding a bit.


The risk for getting or passing HIV when you give a blow job is very low, but there are some things that could increase the chances. These include bleeding gums,sores in your mouth or a sore throat.

It is hard to say whether getting dental work would increase the risk for HIV. It may depend on the health of your gums, the kind of dental work you had and the amount of time between seeing the dentist and the blow job.

There is a higher chances of getting or passing other STIs with blow jobs including gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis. Herpes and HPV can also be passed from mouth to genitals and vice versa.

If you are getting or giving blow jobs, it is a good idea to get routine testing. Often STIs have no noticeable symptoms and the only way you know you have one is to get tested.

Check out our clinic finder, if you need a place for regular testing.

Please leave a comment to let us know if this answers your question or if you need more info.

Health Nurse