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Public Health Professionals Offer Safe Sex Reminder on Valentine's Day

Interlake-Eastern public health professionals are reminding people on Valentine’s Day that using a condom is among the best ways to prevent transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV.


“Sexually transmitted infections are spread by having unprotected sex. Many people who are infected do not know they are infected and that’s dangerous because people can unknowingly spread the infection. STIs are a serious health risk. They can be painful and cause infertility and birth defects. Prevention is key,” said Dr. Karen Robinson, Interlake-Eastern RHA’s medical officer of health. “The easiest way to prevent the spread of STIs during sex is by using a condom.”


Currently Interlake-Eastern RHA public health nurses provide sexual health education and counseling, distribute safe sex supplies and provide access to testing and treatment, if required, for all STIs. Interlake-Eastern RHA public health nurses offer urine testing and oral medications for STIs at its 17 public heath offices across the region. Public health nurses can also connect clients with primary health care providers if they don’t already have one.


STIs are among the most widespread infections in the world and affect both men and women. In the past year there has been an outbreak of syphilis in Manitoba. Syphilis is easily treated with antibiotics but left untreated, syphilis can cause serious complications in those infected, as well as birth defects when a pregnant woman is infected. HIV is also a reality in Manitoba. There were 74 newly positive HIV cases reported in 2013 in Manitoba with some of these diagnosed in the late stages of illness when HIV is more difficult to treat and has already caused complications. The sooner people with HIV are diagnosed, the sooner they can start treatment for HIV, and the better that treatment works. They can also better protect their sex partners from getting HIV.


Some STIs are curable and others can only be treated and controlled – there is no cure. Abstinence is the best way to prevent being infected with an STI; however, sex using a condom is recommended for people who are sexually active. It is also best to avoid sexual activities if you or your partner have symptoms, are being treated for an STI or if there has been exposure to someone who is infected. Your risk of contracting an STI increases if you have several sexual partners at the same time.  


STI testing can be as easy as peeing in a cup, although it is best to also get a blood test for HIV and syphilis.


“Everyone who is sexually active is at risk and testing for STIs should be a routine part of health care. The conversation may not be an easy one to start but you owe it to yourself and your partners to get the facts and get tested if you are at risk,” Robinson said. “Your health care provider and your public health nurse are here to help. They’ll answer questions without being judgmental and ensure you get the tests, treatment and support you need. The earlier a diagnosis can be made, the better we are able to provide treatment.”


Interlake-Eastern RHA is working to build a greater awareness of STIs and increase access to safer sex supplies. During sexual health week February 9-15 and Valentine’s Day weekend, Interlake-Eastern RHA public health staff is partnering with Growing Years Family Resource Centre in Selkirk, Mrs. Lucci’s Community Resource Centre in Lac du Bonnet, Wings of Power Inc., Interlake Women’s Resource Centre and Network 4 Change for its second annual Get Your Heart On condom blitz to provide free condoms as a reminder to practice safe sex and avoid the spread of STIs.  


For more information on STIs click here. If you are concerned about or have questions regarding your own sexual health, speak with your public health nurse. For a listing of public health offices in the Interlake-EAster region, click here or call a Health Links nurse any time at 204-788-8200 or toll-free 1-888-315-9257.



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