Par Eric Charette | 06 June 2023

Prevention Is Better Than Cure: How to Protect Yourself Against STBBIs

For DépistaFest, Prelib teamed up with Club Sexu to provide up-to-date information on STBBI prevention methods.

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Every year, over 40,000 Quebecers are diagnosed with a sexually transmitted and blood-borne infection (STBBI).1 Fortunately, most are easily treatable… when they’re detected. When left untreated, they can lead to complications that can have significant health consequences.

The best way to protect yourself from STBBIs is to combine several prevention strategies (presented below) that fit your needs: getting tested regularly, using protection during sexual activity and drug use, PrEP and PEP, vaccination, and discussing sexual health and STBBI screening with your partner(s).

Regular screening

Whatever your sexual practices and chosen methods of protection, regular screening remains the only way to be sure that you have not contracted an STBBI. Taking care of yourself and your partner(s) makes the pleasure last!

Screening is recommended if you recognize yourself in any of the following situations:

  • You want to perform routine STBBI screening
  • You are in a stable relationship and want to stop using condoms
  • You have doubts about your present or past partners’ sexual health statuses
  • You have had possible contact with blood

Depending on your practices, we recommend regular STBBI screening one to four times a year. Our services include a nonjudgmental medical questionnaire that assesses which tests would be most appropriate based on your practices, and a telephone consultation with a professional to discuss the screening frequency that would be best suited to your situation.

Barrier protection methods

As the name suggests, barrier methods aim to create a “wall” during sexual activity to block the transmission of STBBIs. They are effective in reducing the risk of transmission but are not 100% effective because, in practice, mistakes can happen: genital cross-contamination before putting on a condom, using the wrong lubricant, and exposure to certain STBBIs whose lesions extend beyond the covered area, such as syphilis, the human papillomavirus (HPV), and the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Best practice involves using barrier methods, getting tested regularly, AND having a good chat with your partner(s). It’s almost no work for so much more fun.

Barrier protection methods can be found in most pharmacies and sex shops or they can be ordered online.

Condoms (internal and external)

External condoms cover the penis, while internal condoms are inserted into the anus or vagina. To be effective, a condom must be used according to the following recommendations:

  • Make sure it hasn’t expired
  • Don’t tear the packaging with your teeth or scissors
  • Put an external condom on before any sexual contact, including oral sex
  • Use only with water-based or silicone-based lubricants to avoid damaging the condom
  • Change the condom between partners and orifices
  • Don’t use more than one condom at a time, as the friction between the two may damage them and cause them to tear

Dental dams

Dental dams act as a barrier between the mouth and the vulva or anus during oral sex. As with condoms, it’s important to take the necessary precautions during use to guarantee optimal protection (their rate of effectiveness is similar to that of condoms). Here are some simple instructions to make a dental dam out of a condom:

Latex gloves and finger gloves

Like condoms, latex gloves and finger gloves are worn on the hand or fingers during manual or digital stimulation of the anus, vulva, or vagina.

Be sure to remove your rings before use and be careful not to pierce the glove/finger glove with your fingernails.

PrEP and PEP


PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is like oral contraception but for the prevention of HIV rather than pregnancy. Taken in tablet form, it is primarily intended for people at high risk of contracting HIV:

  • Men who have sex with men
  • Trans women
  • Gender-diverse people
  • HIV-negative people who have sex with one or more HIV-positive people

There are two types of PrEP: for continuous (to be taken every day) and on-demand use (two tablets 2 to 24 hours before a high-risk sexual encounter, and one tablet 24 and 48 hours after).

Despite its effectiveness in preventing HIV transmission, PrEP does not protect against other STBBIs. It must therefore be used in combination with a barrier method, such as condoms and regular screenings.

The cost of PrEP may vary depending on your insurance coverage. Contact us for more information.


PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) is your HIV morning after pill: an emergency prevention tool that is taken AFTER a potential exposure to HIV. It should be taken as soon as possible within 72 hours of suspected exposure and for 28 consecutive days. When taken in time, PEP blocks virus replication in the system to prevent permanent infection.

To obtain PEP, you need to act quickly: get an appointment for a medical consultation at a sexual health clinic or go to a hospital emergency room. Some pharmacies can also provide PEP while you wait for your appointment. To be directed to the appropriate resource, you can call the Info-Santé helpline by dialing 811.

The cost of PEP may vary depending on your insurance coverage. Contact us for more information.


Hepatitis A and B and HPV can be prevented by vaccination. These vaccines are available in Canada and are free for people who are eligible for the Québec Vaccination Program.

To find out about vaccine prices and your eligibility for the program, talk to a healthcare professional.

Risk reduction during drug use

If you use drugs by injection or inhalation, it is possible to reduce the risk of contracting an STBBI by employing certain strategies:

  • Use sterile equipment (straws, needles, pipes, filters, etc.) and don’t share them with anyone
  • Get tested regularly
  • Learn about the drugs you use and their effects to avoid an overdose or a bad trip
  • Carry naloxone if applicable

Sterile drug paraphernalia can be obtained in Québec from several resources.

If you practice chemsex or Party and Play (PnP), additional strategies should be considered because the consumption of psychoactive substances can alter your boundaries and risk perception, which can put you at greater risk of damaging the lining of your anus and rectum without realizing it, thereby creating entry points for STBBIs, including HIV. Here are some tips for a safe session:

  • Bring enough protection relevant to your practices: condoms, gloves, or finger gloves
  • Use LOTS of lubricant (water or silicone)
  • Make sure you have taken your PrEP, if applicable
  • If you are not using PrEP or barrier protection methods, use other risk reduction strategies such as PEP (see PEP section above)
  • Discuss PnP with your doctor if you feel comfortable doing so

Talk with your partner(s)

In addition to the protection methods described above, it is recommended to communicate with your partner(s) to better understand their sexual health status, such as when they last got tested, what STBBIs they may have, and whether they are being or have been treated. Also, you can negotiate protection strategies to use during your sexual encounters to reduce the risk of transmission.

Open communication contributes considerably to risk reduction by fostering informed decision-making and maximizing the implementation of protection strategies that are relevant to your situation.

*Reportable diseases refer to intoxications, infections, and diseases diagnosed by a doctor or confirmed in a laboratory that must be declared by healthcare professionals to public health authorities to ensure proper surveillance of the populations’ health and plan intervention strategies accordingly. To find out more about reportable diseases, check out Éducaloi’s webpage.

1National Public Health Program – Reach, screen and detect, treat. Integrate STBBI prevention into regional public health action plans, 2017.

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