You've never had an HIV test? You're starting a new relationship? You've had unprotected sex? You're pregnant or you want to become pregnant? The screening test for HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and other blood-borne and sexually-transmitted infections (BBSTIs commonly known as STIs) is the only way of detecting the presence of an infection and accessing the necessary medical follow-up and support.
It's confidential and free! Because these infections often produce no symptoms, the screening test gives you peace of mind and lets you preserve your health and that of your partners
There are several places where you can have a screening test done for HIV and other BBSTIs (blood-borne and sexually transmitted infections, commonly known as STIs). To get more information about the services offered in your region, you can contact Info-Santé at 8-1-1 or click here. Several AIDS service organisations (ASOs) have testing services adapted to your needs.
Testing is confidential and free for anyone who has a valid health insurance card issued by the RAMQ. The screening test involves taking a blood sample and, if necessary, other samples, such as urine. It takes only a few minutes.
You can undergo testing starting at the age of 14 without needing parental consent.
In general, a health insurance card is required to have a screening test for HIV and other BBSTIs (blood-borne and sexually transmitted infections commonly known as STIs).
Certain structures, such as SIDEPs (Services Intégrés de Dépistage et de Prévention), which are found in one or several CLSCs in every administrative region of Quebec, offer anonymous HIV testing services. To use such services, a person does not have to present any proof of identification and does not have to pay for the services.
If you don't have a health insurance card, you can contact the AIDS service organization (ASO) in your region to find out what options are available to you.
HIV isn't easily transmitted. It can be transmitted through the following body fluids:
HIV is transmitted only when one of these fluids from an HIV-positive person comes into contact with the bloodstream of another person; for example:
On the other hand, HIV is NOT transmitted in everyday situations such as the following:
This applies to men and women, regardless of their sexual orientation or origin.
Nowadays, treatments for HIV are more effective than ever. The life expectancy of a person living with HIV and receiving treatment is very close to that of an uninfected person. The earlier the infection is detected, the earlier it can be managed, bettering the chances of living a long and healthy life. In addition, effective treatments greatly reduce the risk of transmitting HIV. Knowing your status is a good way of protecting your health and that of those close to you. HIV treatments are covered either by private insurance plans or by the public health plan (RAMQ).
If you don't have a health insurance card, you can contact the AIDS service organization in your region to find out what options are available to you.
Other BBSTIs (blood-borne or sexually-transmitted infections commonly known as STIs) can be transmitted more easily than HIV, for example, during oral sex. Considering that lesions can be found in areas not covered by the condom, in this specific case, the condom may not offer complete protection. Very often, you'll have no symptoms or the symptoms will not be visible. Having an BBSTI increases the risk of contracting or transmitting HIV.
Most BBSTIs can be treated and cured and treatments are covered by private insurance plans or by the public health plan (RAMQ).
If you don't have a health insurance card, you can contact the AIDS service organisation in your region to find out what options are available to you.
To protect yourself and reduce risks:
Maintain good oral hygiene and avoid oral sex if you have wounds, cuts, ulcers, gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) or other infections.
Avoid having oral sex the day you visit the dentist.
Avoid brushing your teeth, or using dental floss or mouthwash an hour BEFORE and an hour AFTER oral sex. This minimizes the possibility of getting cuts, irritations or blood in your mouth.
Avoid getting semen or vaginal secretions in your mouth.
When being tested for blood-borne or sexually transmitted infections (BBSTIs commonly known as STIs), ask the doctor to take a specimen from your throat.
Using a condom or dental dam (latex square) during oral sex is another way of minimizing risks. They can be bought flavored or non-lubricated.
Vaginal and anal sex
To reduce risks:
Correctly use a latex, polyurethane or polyisoprene condom for vaginal and anal sex.
Use water-based or silicone lubricants. Don't hesitate to re-apply such products, as they minimize the risk of tearing. Oil-based lubricants are not compatible with condoms. This information is indicated on the lubricant container.
When performing anal sex and vaginal penetration, remember to change the condom when moving from the anus to the vagina in order to avoid transmitting bacteria from one place to the other.
Don’t forget that condoms also protect against unplanned pregnancies.
It is also recommended to wear a condom when sex toys are shared.
For cultural or personal hygiene reasons, some women use vaginal douches or other substances to clean their vagina, before or after sexual relations. These substances can irritate the vaginal mucosa and potentially increase the risks of BBSTIs. It is recommended to wash the vulva daily with water only.
Emergency contraception (morning-after pill)
In situations where a condom wasn’t used or if it broke during sex, the emergency oral contraceptive pill (or morning-after pill) allows a woman to avoid an unplanned pregnancy if taken quickly. Even if this pill can be taken up to 5 days (120 hours) after sex, it is advisable to avoid delay in order to ensure maximum effectiveness.
This pill is available without prescription and it is available to women, including minors, at pharmacies and emergency rooms (ER), and in most clinics and women’s centers.
The pill is free for young women under the age of 18 and for full-time students under the age of 25. The emergency oral contraception has no or few significant side effects and will not prevent future pregnancies. However, its use should be reserved for emergency situations.
For more complete information, contact:
Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis, is a treatment that can be taken after having had unprotected anal or vaginal sex with a partner known to be HIV-positive or one whose status is unknown.
For this treatment to be effective, it must be started as quickly as possible, within a maximum of 72 hours after risk exposure. Some health professionals who do not specialize in HIV may be unaware of this treatment. Therefore, it is highly recommended to consult clinics that specialize in HIV and blood-borne and sexually-transmitted infections (BBSTIs commonly known as STIs)
You can make an appointment at a specialized clinic or go to the emergency unit of the hospital closest to you. Remember that it’s important to be seen as quickly as possible, within 72 hours of the risky sexual activity.