Screening for sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBIs)

Why get tested

Screening is a confidential, easy and quick way to find out if you have a sexually transmitted and blood-borne infection (STBBI).

People who have an STBBI do not always have symptoms. They can be infected and pass the infection on without being aware of it. The only way to confirm whether or not someone has an infection is by testing for STBBIs. Screening means that people who have contracted an STBBI can be treated appropriately and avoid the complications of an untreated infection.

When to get tested

A number of behaviours increase the risk of getting an STBBI. You should get tested if you or your partner, even if it was only once:

  • Have had unprotected sex
  • Have shared equipment used to prepare, inject or inhale drugs
  • Have had a tattoo or piercing done with non-sterile equipment

You should also get tested for STBBIs if:

  • You are in a steady relationship and want to stop using condoms or sheet of latex
  • You are pregnant or want to get pregnant
  • You or your partner had sex with:
    • A new partner
    • Multiple partners
    • An anonymous partner
  • You had sex with someone who has an STBBI
  • You were exposed to blood or other bodily fluids that might be contaminated, for example, semen or vaginal secretions
  • You have symptoms similar to those of an STBBI

For various reasons, STBBIs affect some population groups more than others:

  • Young people 25 years of age or under who are sexually active
  • Men who have sex with men
  • People who are or have previously been incarcerated
  • Sex workers and their clients
  • People who inject or inhale drugs
  • People who come from a region or country where STBBIs are very widespread

If you or your partner belong to one of these groups, talk to a health professional about getting tested for STBBIs.

Preparing to get tested


STBBI tests are offered and done during a consultation with a doctor or nurse. Young people who are 14 years of age or over can get tested and be treated without their parents’ permission. In fact, from age 14 on, a young person can consent to health care alone.


STBBI tests are free for anyone who has a Quebec health insurance card. However, some resources charge a fee (generally $5 or $15) for transporting biological samples to the laboratory.

Where to Get Tested

Several types of resources offer STBBI testing services:

  • Family medicine clinics
  • CLSCs
  • Sexual health clinics
  • Family planning clinics
  • Youth clinics (usually for people 25 years of age or under).

To find out the contact information for a resource that offers STBBI testing near you, ask your health professional or call Info-Santé 811.

Before you go, inquire about:

  • The opening hours – some resources are open evenings and weekends
  • Whether or not you have to make an appointment
  • Whether or not you will have to pay a fee

You can also ask what other services are available, for example, pregnancy tests or contraception.

What to expect at the appointment

At the appointment, the health professional may ask you personal questions about various subjects. For example:

  • Do you have any symptoms?
  • Have you had unprotected sex?
  • Have you had multiple sex partners?
  • Have you had vaginal, oral or anal sex?
  • Have you ever injected or inhaled drugs?

Answering the health professional’s questions as honestly as possible will help them understand your situation better. They will know what infections to look for and what tests should be done. You will be free to agree or refuse to take the tests they suggest.

This is also an opportunity to ask the health professional any questions you have and to voice your concerns.

How the tests are done

STBBI tests can be done with:

  • A urine sample
  • Secretions or cells from:
    • The vagina
    • The cervix
    • The urethra
    • The anus
    • The throat
  • A blood sample

The health professional recommend the appropriate tests, according to the person’s situation. This means they may not recommend tests for all STBBIs. Furthermore, some STBBIs are only detected when there are symptoms.

Test results

A negative result generally means that the person does not have an STBBI. In some situations, the health professional might ask you to get tested again a few weeks later.

A positive result means that an STBBI has been detected. The health professional will tell you about treatment and the precautions to take to avoid spreading the infection.

You will agree on when and how to get your results with the health professional.

STBBI treatment

STBBIs are treated with medication. Medication can cure some, but not all, STBBIs. Other STBBIs remain in the infected person’s body for the rest of their life and medication is used to:

  • Control the infection
  • Limit the complications
  • Reduce the risk of transmission
  • Relieve the symptoms

Infected people must be treated as soon as possible to prevent complications.

Last update: February 6, 2018


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