Archive for March, 2011

Ask anything: Getting tested for HIV


This week’s Ask Anything column is answered by Liam, a fantastic Sense animator who facilitates our workshops in schools! As I mentioned before, Sense now has a formspring account where you can ask us anything – any of your awkward, out-there or just plain practical questions about sex. You can ask your questions anonymously at any time in the box to the right –> and we’ll post the answers here on the blog!

Q: i see you guys are doing HIV testing, can you get tested even if you had unprotected sex a week ago, will it show up on the test?

Great question! The answer is a resounding no. A lot of STIs have what’s called a ‘window period’. A window period is the time where an STI is alive in your body, is totally contagious, but is still undetectable by a test. Chlamydia’s window period is 3 to 10 days, but HIV’s window period is 3 to 6 months. This means that if you’ve had sex and are worried about having contracted HIV, you have to wait 3 to 6 months to get accurate test results (in most cases, the test will be accurate after 3 months but to be sure, it’s important to get tested after 6 months as well). The window period is really important because it means that HIV can be transmitted for a full 6 months before you can even know whether or not it’s in your body. When a doctor tests for HIV, they are actually testing for the antibodies that your body will produce to fight HIV. Even during window periods, condoms are a very effective way to protect yourself and your partners from HIV.

Because HIV has the longest window period out of all the STIs, it’s a good idea to use it as a marker for how often you can effectively get tested for STIs. For a person who is sexually active and has either multiple partners or at least one partner who has multiple partners, think about getting tested every 6 months. For everybody else, think about getting tested 6 months after each new sexual partner.

Some people choose to get tested for HIV even if it’s earlier than the three months’ window period, because they want to reduce their immediate anxiety. This is okay, but you will just have to remember that the test reflects where your health was at three months ago, and that you’ll need to get re-tested for a truly accurate result. You can always get tested for HIV at the Head & Hands medical clinic on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, or watch the website for news of upcoming special HIV testing clinics, like the one coming up on March 31st.

Hope this helps!

Ask anything: Safer oral + anal sex


This week’s Ask Anything column is answered by Liam, a fantastic Sense animator who facilitates our workshops in schools! As I mentioned before, Sense now has a formspring account where you can ask us anything – any of your awkward, out-there or just plain practical questions about sex. You can ask your questions anonymously at any time in the box to the right –> and we’ll post the answers here on the blog!

Q: is anal and oral sex safe without condoms?

The short answer is no, but, it’s always more complicated than that. For instance, oral and anal sex with condoms isn’t completely safe either. For instance, herpes, HPV (genital warts), and parasitic STIs (crabs, lice, and trichomoniasis) can be passed on even if a condom is used properly because condoms can only protect the area that they cover and these STIs are located all over the genital area, not just on the shaft of a penis. Instead of safe vs. unsafe, it makes more sense to talk about ‘safer’ sex. Condoms are a very effective method to prevent the transmission of a lot of STIs, many of which can be passed on through anal and oral sex.

Using a condom for anal sex can be a bit tricky because anuses often have less lubrication than either mouths or vaginas. Be sure to use a water-based lube with a latex condom and to go as slowly as you need to. Be sure not to double-bag (wear 2 condoms at the same time) because they rub together and actually increase the risk of a condom mishap.

For oral sex, condoms or dental dams can prevent the transmission of gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, HIV and Hepatitis A/B/C, and can help reduce the risk of HPV and herpes transmission. But remember that if open sores are present and they’re not covered by the condom or dental dam, infections can be transmitted from skin to skin contact.

The take-away lesson is that proper condom use and caution when there are open sores around will do a lot to keep you safer.

Hope this helps! Happy safer sex!

Free sex advice from Annie Sprinkle – Monday at 11:30!!

Here in Montreal! Monday, March 21st!

Here in Montreal! Tomorrow, Monday, March 21st @ 11:30am!

Annie Sprinkle is here in Montreal! And she’s giving FREE sex advice tomorrow from 11:30am to 2:00pm at Galerie La Centrale, 4296 St-Laurent! We’ll be there, too, so come on by and tell your friends, too:

Tomorrow’s sex clinic will be public and free – anyone and everyone is welcome to stop by Galerie La Centrale (google map here) to ask Annie and her friends about anything related to sex and sexuality.

Annie Sprinkle's Sidewalk Sex Clinic - check out

Annie Sprinkle's free sex clinic - looks fun to me!

This is a really fun and rare opportunity to talk (for FREE!) with one of the funniest and most innovative sex educators in the world. As one of the strongest advocates for sex-positive, feminist health & sexuality, Annie Sprinkle is a big-time sex ed hero of ours at Head & Hands (and if you’ve ever come to one of our health clinic nights, you may have even been lucky enough to assume her identity for a short while, thanks to our anonymous waiting room name cards!).

If you’re feeling shy or don’t have time to meet Annie tomorrow, send us your questions through our Formspring account! If we don’t have the answer, it’s pretty likely that Annie does.

See you tomorrow!!

Demystifying vaginal fluids! Chart of Awesome.


Click on the image to enlarge the chart!

I love this chart SO MUCH. I find it’s super-helpful for learning about how vaginal fluid (or “discharge”) looks and feels over the course of a menstrual cycle. It’s awesome because it accepts that vaginal fluid is a healthy part of your body and provides a range of possibilities of what it can be like. I also like how it provides a “Symptoms of true vaginal infection” list alongside. Click below to read more!


Knowledge is power: New video + Rapid HIV Testing Night!


Head & Hands is hosting a rapid HIV testing clinic on Thursday, March 31st, 2011, between 5-8pm.

This free service is available for youth aged 12 to 25. Limited spaces are available; the clinic is first-come, first-served.

Rapid testing allows people to get results in a matter of minutes, in contrast to conventional HIV testing which typically involves a two-to-three week delay before getting results. This delay can cause a lot of anxiety and in many cases act as a significant barrier to getting tested. In fact, 76% of people who received rapid-HIV testing at Head & Hands on World AIDS Day listed “less anxiety” as the reason they prefer rapid-testing to regular testing. Head & Hands uses INSTI™ HIV-1/HIV-2* Antibody Test, which provides the same accuracy in results as standard HIV testing (99.96%).

This is the second time that a rapid HIV testing clinic is being offered at Head & Hands. It is a new project that has been developed with the support of the Farha Foundation. The first clinic was offered on World AIDS Day and was very successful: 92% of youth who were tested said that they preferred rapid HIV testing to regular testing, and 100% said they would get rapid testing done again.

In keeping with Head & Hands mission, this clinic aims to provide services that empower youth to make healthy life choices. By offering this confidential, free and rapid HIV testing night, we aim to facilitate Montreal youths access to HIV testing and to do so in a holistic and harm reductive manner. Counseling will be available on site.

Here’s the Facebook event, if you’re interested!


À deux mains offrira pour la deuxième fois sa clinique de dépistage rapide du VIH, jeudi le 31 mars, 2011, entre 17h et 20h.

Le service sera offert gratuitement pour les jeunes âgés entre 12 et 25 ans. Nombre de places limitées.

Le dépistage rapide permet d’obtenir les résultats en approximativement 10 minutes, alors que les tests de dépistage conventionnels impliquent une attente de 2 semaines entre la réalisation du test et la réception des résultats. Ce délai peut causer beaucoup d’anxiété et, dans plusieurs cas, une barrière à la décision de se faire tester. Comme le dépistage rapide élimine la période d’attente, il peut encourager les gens qui, autrement, ne se feraient pas tester. À deux mains utilise le test d’anticorps INSTI™ HIV-1/HIV-2* qui fournit la même exactitude dans ses résultats que le test de dépistage du VIH standard (99.96%).

C’est la deuxième fois qu’une clinique de dépistage rapide du VIH est offerte chez A deux mains. Il s’agit d’un nouveau projet qui a été développé avec le soutien de la Fondation Farha. La première clinique a été offerte la journée mondiale de lutte contre le SIDA et a été un succès. Vingt-sept jeunes ont été testés ce soir-là, 88% ont dit qu’ils reviendraient.

Conformément à la mission de À deux mains, cette clinique vise à fournir des services qui encouragent la jeunesse à faire des choix de mode de vie sains. En offrant cette soirée de dépistage du VIH confidentielle, gratuite et rapide, nous visons à faciliter l’accès des jeunes de Montréal au dépistage du VIH avec une approche holistique et de réduction des risques. Des interventions seront disponibles sur place.

Voici l’événement Facebook, si cela vous intéresse !

Ask anything: The hymen


Welcome to the very first “Ask anything” column! As I mentioned last week, Sense now has a formspring account where you can ask us anything – any of your awkward, out-there or just plain practical questions about sex. You can ask your questions anonymously at any time in the box to the right –> or by visiting us on formspring!  We will post answers weekly on the blog. So… off we go with our first question!


Q: I have a research term paper with regards to picture of virgin vagina hymen.(colored) Where can I print this kind of pictures. Thank you so much.

A: Thanks for your question, and that’s quite the interesting research topic!  One of our blog contributors posted about the hymen and virginity awhile ago, and there are some pictures there, although they’re in black & white.


But wait – there’s more! The hymen itself is the subject of much debate. One thing that’s important to remember is that, contrary to popular belief, you can’t actually tell whether someone is a “virgin” by checking to see if their hymen is intact. First of all, the hymen is a very thin membrane that covers the opening of the vagina at birth. As a person grows, this membrane usually dissolves and what’s left is called the vaginal corona. The corona basically consists of thin folds of tissue around 1-2 cm inside the vagina. This can vary widely from person to person, and in some cases the hymen membrane does not dissolve completely, which can make things like inserting a tampon more difficult or painful. Penetrative sex can also be painful, not because it “breaks the hymen”, but because it can stretch and pull at these folds. One of the ways to make sex feel less painful and more pleasurable is to use lube, and make sure the person is aroused (through foreplay, touching, kissing, clitoral stimulation, etc.!) – and this applies every time, not just the first time!


Here are some other online resources that discuss this topic: