Sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBI)

STBBI, also known as sexually transmitted diseases (STD) or sexually transmitted infections (STI), are infections that can be transmitted by sexual contact or any other activities during which the bodily fluids of two people mingle, such as the sharing of needles. 

The majority of people will have an STBBI at some point in their lives. If you contract an STBBI, it’s important to remember that you’re not “dirty” or “gross”. Many STBBI are curable, and the ones that aren’t are manageable with medication. Some common STBBI include:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis
  • Genital herpes (HSV) 
  • Human papillomavirus 

To know more about symptoms of these STBBI and others, visit the Options for Sexual Health website.

Since many STBBI often have no symptoms, it is important to get tested on a regular basis so that treatment can be started as soon as possible.

STBBI Risk with Different Kinds of Sex

Different types of STBBI can be passed more easily depending on what type of sex you’re having. These can include oral, vaginal, or anal sex. Oral sex includes fellatio (putting the mouth on the penis), cunnilingus (putting the mouth on the vagina), and rimming (putting the mouth on the anus). The risk increases if cum enters the mouth of someone with oral ulcers, or bleeding gums, there are genital sores, or other STBBI are present.

Although the risk of HIV transmission during unprotected oral sex is low, there is risk for other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections including Hepatitis A, B and C; syphilis, herpes, gonorrhea and chlamydia. Additionally, rimming can transmit intestinal parasites like Giardia and bacteria like E. coli.

You can find out more about which sex acts have higher risks for specific STBBI here.


Many STBBIs increase your risk of contracting HIV if you are exposed to it, and a person living with HIV is more vulnerable to contracting other STBBI.

STBBI cause inflammation in the mouth, genitals or rectum (asshole). This recruits more activated immune cells to the inflamed area. Some STBBI also increase risk of HIV transmission by creating holes or ulcers in the epithelial cell layer. Therefore, STBBI increase the risk for: 

  • HIV-negative individuals to become infected with HIV through anal sex, vaginal sex and oral sex.
  • People living with HIV to transmit HIV to someone else through anal or vaginal sex.

Several STBBI to note:

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a chronic but curable STBBI. Treatment can take 8, 12, or 24 weeks, and is highly effective. However, you can be reinfected if exposed to HCV again.

There is no vaccine for HCV, but if you are diagnosed, getting treated early for hepatitis C can reduce the amount of liver damage that occurs. There are many side effects to treatment, so deciding to start treatment is something that should be discussed with your doctor. Treatment can still be undertaken if you are in active drug use.

For more information about Hepatitis C, read CATIE’s Hepatitis C: An In-Depth Guide.


Gonorrhea is the second most common sexually transmitted infection in Canada, behind chlamydia.

Antibiotic resistance is on the rise for gonorrhea infections, meaning it can be more difficult to treat. There has been an increase in the number of infections which are resistant to first-wave treatments. Additionally, there are now strains of gonorrhea that have developed resistance to all known antibiotics.

A 3D computer-generated image of drug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which causes gonorrhea. Credit: James Archer/CDC