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 Risks and Transmission (405)

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

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 have HIV. Can I give someone HIV if me and my partner are rimming each other?


The chances of getting or giving HIV from rimming are low. Blood on or around the anus or mouth could increase the chance of passing HIV. 

There are other STIs that are more easily be passed through rimming including hepatitis A, herpes, syphilis and HPV. It is possible but not common to pass gonorrhea and chlamydia.

It is also possible to pass or get intestinal parasites.

Barriers, such as dental dams can provide good protection against STI’s.

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

Health 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

Is it possible to get HIV from a sex toy?


Yes, it is possible to get HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from a sex toy if it is shared between people and a condom is not used, or if it is shared before it is properly cleaned. 

For there to be a risk, the toy would need to come in contact with vaginal fluid, pre cum, semen, blood or rectal mucous.

Once outside the body HIV does not survive for long. There is a higher chance of passing HIV or other STIs when sex toys are passed directly between people.

Click here for more information on the care and cleaning of sex toys.

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

Health Nurse