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.

STI Information (58)

Hi,My partner and I are deciding whether or not unprotected sex might be an option for us. We are both up to date on usual STI tests and I use a copper IUD as contraceptive. However, in the past we have both had unprotected sex so technically speaking, we could have been exposed to HPV. Knowing this, should I change how regularly I get my Pap test done? For that matter, does having multiple partners change how frequently you should get pap smears?Thanks!

Hi, and thanks for your question

You do not need to increase or change how frequently you get PAP screening done. The BC Cancer Agency sets these guidelines based on the current research and best practice. Their recommendation currently is for screening every 3 years after the age of 25. If they find anything unusual or atypical on a PAP test, they will make a recommendation for more frequent follow up at that time. So unless recommended otherwise, every 3 years is perfectly fine for you.

It’s also important to keep in mind that HPV is incredibly common and there are approximately 150 strains of the virus, most of which cause no harm and present no symptoms. The majority of sexually active adults will have at least one HPV infection during their lifetime and not even know about it. In fact, HPV is so common that we often refer to it as the “common cold of the genitals.” Our HPV Patient’s Guide has lots of great information on HPV if you’re interested. 

The most important thing you can do for yourself is to get a PAP screen every three years. You may also want to consider the HPV Vaccine (Gardasil-9) if the cost is not too prohibitive.

Let us know if this does not answer your question or if you have any more questions or concerns. Health Nurse

Hi, I have a concern regarding getting HIV. I had unprotected oral sex about a week back with a sex worker, who has been in this profession for a few years and is well-reviewed. I am freaking out now about getting HIV. Can you please advise what are the chances of getting HIV after receiving unprotected oral sex and when should I get tested (3 weeks i guess)? I did not have any sores on my genitals, and apparently she did not have any ulcers, wounds etc in her mouth, but of course, I am not sure about that. She did mention though that she does not have HIV but I am not sure whether to rely on her or not. We did not have any other form of sexual activity. Thank you.

Hi, and thank you for your question

The chance of getting HIV from oral sex is extremely low as indicated in our Know Your Chances charts and on our HIV and AIDS information page. If you are sexually active, we recommend getting tested routinely (every 6-12 months) for all sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea. The best time to test for HIV is 6-12 weeks after an encounter as it can take up to this amount of time for antibodies to be detectable if a person has acquired the virus.

I would add that simply because someone does sex work, this does not mean that they have HIV. In fact you have indicated that this person told you that they do not have HIV and that they are “well-reviewed” on their profile. Whether you engage in sexual contact with someone who does sex work, or with someone you met online or at any other venue, it is important to consider precautions you may want to take against infections. As already noted, oral sex is generally pretty low risk for HIV but other infections such as HSV, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea can be more easily passed this way. Regardless of the partner, condoms are a good way to prevent or to decrease the chance of passing these infections.

Let us know if this does not answer your question or if you have any more questions or concerns.
Health Nurse

Can I get hiv while rubbing my genital with someone else while wearing thin clothing? The other person was also wearing underwear.

Hello, and thank you for your question.

HIV is transmitted through blood and body fluids, and cannot be passed through casual contact, skin to skin contact, or through clothing.

For more information on a variety of sexually transmitted infections please visit STIs at a Glance or for info about transmission risk check out Know your Chances.

Please let us know if this does not answer your question or if you have any more questions or concerns.
Health Nurse

I recently had unprotected sex and immediately after I was sore. Within 5-10 hours a developed a thicker yellowish/green discharge and it became uncomfortable to urinate. I’m wondering if it’s possible to have symptoms of an STD this early? And can an std be passed from my fingers to a mans genetalia? Thank you.

Hi, and thank you for your question

It would be pretty unusual to develop symptoms of an STI that quickly after possibly being exposed. A very likely culprit of the soreness you felt might have been due to friction and not enough lubrication during insertive sex. Sometimes adding some extra lubricant can really help with comfort and with preventing damage to the skin such as small tears.

I don’t know what the discharge might have been, but it can be common to have some irritation to the urethra after having sex. During intercourse there are lots of microbes (non-harmful, normal healthy bacteria) that can be passed between partners. While these microbes don’t necessarily cause an infection they can get up into the urethra and cause some irritation. Staying well hydrated, urinating frequently (especially right after sex) and drinking cranberry juice or taking some cranberry supplements can help with this discomfort.

Finally, yes some STIs could be passed from your finger’s to a male partner’s genitals, if your fingers had been touching your own genitals first and there is an infection already present. The most common things would be infections passed through skin to skin contact such as HPV, herpes or even syphilis. So for example, if a person has an active herpes outbreak on their genitals and touches the sores, then immediately touches their partner’s genitals, it would be possible to pass that infection to the partner.

You might find our STIs at a Glance chart helpful as it gives a quick overview of how different infections are passed.

Let us know if this does not answer your question or if you have any more questions or concerns.
Health Nurse

I am from Bangladesh.have some stupid mistakes in my life and I am paying heavily for this Episode. #1 october 29,2014 I had protected vaginal sex with a female csw.I also french kissed her.Later found the girl HIV +.After 5 weeks I experienced severe flue type illness.Swollen lymph nodes under jaw and neck,loose stool,hedeach,severe muscle and joint pain,rash on both arm. I have tested after 3 months with 3rd generation rapid test,after 5 months with 3rd generation elisa, after 6.5 months with 3rd generation rapid test.All are negative. 2# July 16 2017 I had protected oral and protected vaginal sex with a female csw.Dont know why? Vaginal part only lasted 10-15 seconds.The girl seemed a consistent condom user.No real symptom aftee 1-4 weeks. Episode 3 # October 17 2017 I had protected vaginal sex with a csw.She offered me to have sex without a condom for extra charge.But she assured me she gets tested every month. Now you are thinking whats the real problem.Actually Im experiencing the symptom of overt aids.Lose of appetite,Loosing weight,fatigue, dizziness ,swollen lymph nodes,loose stool,nail fungus,clubbing nail are making my life hell.I have been loosing weight before my 2nd exposure. I dont know what to do? I cry and pray to God.Ive ruined my life.In my country HIV stigma is very deep and like a death sentence.

Hi there, and thanks for writing in.

The window period (time between when a person comes in contact with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and when the STI will show up on a test) for HIV is 3 months. If you have had a negative HIV antibody test 3 months or more after the encounter, this means that you do not have HIV.

Actually I can see that you have written to us previously with this same question. It is very difficult to live in a place where there is still a lot of stigma around HIV. It is also difficult to function in everyday life when we feel this much anxiety. It seems from your question and from the number of times that you have posted that question, that you are feeling a lot of anxiety about the possibility of an HIV infection. The fact is, you’ve had a negative test result more than 3 months after the encounter. This means that you are HIV negative.

The symptoms that we sometimes see associated with HIV seroconversion are what we call non-specific symptoms. This means that while swollen lymph nodes can be present with an HIV infection, for example, they can also be present with a multitude of other harmless things, such as a common cold.

Interestingly enough, all the symptoms that you’ve described to me can also be attributed to high levels of continued stress and anxiety. When we are feeling particularly anxious we don’t sleep. And when we don’t sleep, we get sick. When we are worried, maybe we don’t eat a normal healthy diet. And when we don’t eat, we lose weight.

In sexual health, we often meet people who are experiencing anxiety about an infection, but when we talk about it further, we discover that the actual feelings are around a new or different sexual encounter that the person feels unsure or ashamed about. I cannot determine exactly where your anxiety is coming from, but perhaps this is true for yourself.

At this point, I would strongly recommend that you see a professional counsellor or a healthcare professional about the level of anxiety you are feeling. Sometimes talking through these things in person can be helpful and counsellors have a lot of different tips and tricks to help people work through their anxious thoughts. In any case, further testing for HIV will likely not be helpful at this time, and will indeed most likely be more harmful to your mental health.

Let us know if this does not answer your question or if you have any more questions or concerns.
Health Nurse

Hi, while having a relation an escort spit on the top of my penis and rubbed it as lubricant, an i at risk ? Thank you. Worried man.

Hi, and thanks for your question

I’m going to assume that what you’re worried about is the risk of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) from the encounter you’ve described.

Generally speaking, we don’t see STIs passed this way. HIV and different types of Hepatitis are passed through blood and body fluids like semen and vaginal fluid. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are passed through semen, vaginal, and anal fluids. Syphilis can also be passed through direct contact with a lesion (syphilis sore).

There aren’t any STIs that are carried in saliva. The only thing that could potentially pass this way would be Herpes Simplex Virus, but it would be extremely unlikely in this case. Herpes is passed by skin to skin contact. If the person you had sex with had a very fresh, open sore in his or her mouth and then spit directly on your skin it is possible there could have been virus contained in the saliva which was passed to you. But again, this would really be more of a theoretical risk than a practical one.

If you are still concerned, the best thing would be to see a healthcare provider and get tested for STIs. In fact, we recommend this routinely for any sexually active adult, whether they have symptoms or are worried about a particular encounter or not.
Have a look at our STIs at a Glance chart as well, as it gives a good snapshot of how STIs are passed.

Let us know if this does not answer your question or if you have any more questions or concerns. Health Nurse

Morning i had protected sex with a lady whom i just met, protected penetration and protected oral but at the end when i removed the condom she gave me a handjob and she used her saliva on my penis the saliva was white but couldnt see if there is any red in it so im scared to catch HIV , although my friend is studying microbiology and immunology and confirmed to me that no way hiv can be transmitted that way because even if there is blood in the saliva it wont be concentrated and the saliva has an enzyme that destroys the virus plus in open air the virus is weak, but i preferred to check with your professional nurses to loosen up. Any suggestion ? Thank you

Hi, and thanks for your question

Well, the short answer is that your friend is absolutely right! HIV is not transmitted this way. It is not present in saliva, which is why we don’t see HIV passed through things like kissing. In addition, the virus does not survive outside the body for more than a second or two. So even if there was blood in her saliva, there isn’t really a risk for it to have entered your body in the encounter which you had described. Finally, we don’t even know if this person had HIV or not herself! If your sexual partner is HIV negative, then there is no risk to yourself of getting HIV from that person. 

In terms of this encounter, I would not be concerned. However, in general we always do recommend regular testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) between every 6-12 months for all sexually active individuals. A routine test would include screening for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. These infections often do not have any symptoms at all, so it’s good to just get checked out once in a while.

Have a look at our Clinic Finder to help locate a clinic in your area.

You also might want to check out our STIs at a Glance and Know Your Chances charts for a basic overview of different STIs and how they are passed.

Let us know if this does not answer your question or if you have any more questions or concerns.
Health Nurse

How long will I have genital warts (HPV)?

Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). It is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 

There are over 100 types of HPV. About 40 of them can affect the anus/rectum, genitals and less commonly, the mouth and throat. HPV is sexually transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. This includes sexual contact such as, genitals rubbing together, penetrative sex (vaginal/internal genital or anal/rectal intercourse), oral sex, sharing sex toys, and hands on genitals. HPV may still be present even if there are no visible warts or when the warts are gone. Wearing condoms can help to reduce, but not eliminate the chances of passing HPV from one partner to another.

For the majority of people, the virus will clear the body on its own without causing symptoms/warts or problems. 

For those who do get symptoms (genital warts), most of these will eventually go away with or without having them treated, often within 18-24 months. Once your genital warts are gone, this does not mean the HPV infection is gone or cured. Genital warts can come back and you can get HPV again from a partner who has it.

There are now vaccines that protect against the more common HPV types. The vaccine will not help you get rid of HPV if you already have it, but it can prevent future infections. To learn more about the HPV and other vaccines, click here.


My husband and I have Genital Herpes. I had a C section due to this. We were recently away on vacation with our 8 month old. There was only a stand up shower in our hotel so my husband showered with my 8 month old. In the shower there was a sitting area. My husband sat down on it and then briefly rested my baby on his lap to wash him. He only did this for about 5-10 seconds because I saw and reminded him not to. He doesn’t have any open sores or symptoms of an outbreak and has had the virus for 9 years but I am worried sick about viral shedding. I don’t know what I would do if my baby has become infected from showering him. I’ve read mixed things such as the way you shed the virus when there is no outbreaks is through mucus membranes and Genital secretions. If this were the case he definitely did not come into contact with that but he was resting on his lap so his pubic hair area could have touched my son. Is he at risk? It’s been 6 days so far and no symptoms. Thanks you so much.

 Based on what you have shared with me it sounds like there are no significant exposures to indicate an HSV infection. Herpes is passed by skin-to-skin contact between one person who has the virus and another who does not. This contact needs to be directly with the part of the body where aperson has the virus. For example, if someone has oral herpes, their mouth is the area of the body that has the virus, not their genitals. The type of contact that usually transmits herpes involves skin rubbing on skin, like kissing or sexual activity. It also is possible for herpes to be passed if one person touchesthe part of their body that has herpes (like their genitals) and then immediately touches another person’s mouth or genitals. Sharing sex toys between one person and another without changing condoms or washing toyscan also pass the virus.

The chance of passing herpes is highest when there is an active outbreak (when sores or blisters are visible, or prodrome symptoms are present). There is no risk of passing herpes throughgeneral household activities. You can’t get herpes from a toilet seat or furniture, or fromsharing a bed or hugging someone with herpes.The herpes virus is fragile and doesn’t live more than a few minutes on most surfaces. The virus is easily killed by soap and water. Unless an item, like a spoon or a towel, is going directly from one person’s mouth or genitals to another person, there is no need to worryabout sharing household items.

Although there is no major risk exposure in the case that you’ve mentioned to me, these are the key clinical indicators of an active herpes outbreak/infection

• One or more sores that look like
water blisters, cuts, or broken skin
• The skin can feel itchy, tingling, burning, raw, or painful
• Fever, headache, or muscle aches
• Feel tired and not well

• Pain in your legs or buttocks
• The lymph nodes in the groin can be swollen and tender
• Painful urination (peeing)
• A change in vaginal discharge
• Swollen genitals


Does this answer your question? Please let us know.

Dear Sir,I am here to write you an e-mail because I have some concerned about HIV . I am again in relationship with Egyptian Girl Friend. We kissed each other that was lips to lip wet kissing. I did not taste any blood nor I did not see any blood. Tongue was not involved during Kiss. I asked her that do you have any gum disease. She told me that some time when she brushed her teeth, sometime blood comes, but not often or every day. In the light of above is there any chances that I could get HIV.Iwas having at that time burning sensation inside my lower lips but I am sure it was not bleeding.We did not even chew lips during the kissing.Yes I sucked her nipples as well but I know sucking the nipples is not a risk.Kindly if you can reply as always you helped me. Awaiting your valuable reply in Return.Best Regards,

Based on what you’ve shared with me, there is no risks for HIV transmission. Below I have highlighted means of HIV transmission for you. If you would like to learn more about HIV I recommend you use our website and search for keyword HIV.

HIV can only be passed by these five body fluids:

  • blood
  • semen (including pre-cum)
  • rectal fluid
  • vaginal fluid
  • breast milk

HIV can be passed when one of these fluids from a person with HIV gets into the bloodstream of another person—through broken skin, the opening of the penis or the wet linings of the body, such as the vagina, rectum or foreskin. HIV cannot be passed through healthy, unbroken skin.

The two main ways that HIV can be passed are:

  • through sex
  • by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs (including steroids or hormones)

HIV can also be passed:

  • to a fetus or baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding
  • by sharing needles or ink to get a tattoo
  • by sharing needles or jewelry to get a body piercing
  • by sharing acupuncture needles

HIV cannot be passed by:

  • shaking hands, working or eating with someone who has HIV
  • hugs or kisses
  • coughs, sneezes or spitting
  • swimming pools, toilet seats or water fountains
  • insects or animals

Does this answer your question? Please let us know.