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I understand general screenings for STI is free in Canada but for herpes if you don't have any symptoms you need to get a blood test. Are these blood tests also free? Is it possible to get a blood test every week if you often have different partners?

Your willingness to get tested for STIs (sexually transmitted infections) and find more information on testing is a great step. You’re correct that STI testing is free in Canada, and recommended for everyone who is sexually active.

As far as testing and diagnosing herpes, there are a few things to keep in mind. At Nine Circles Community Health Centre and many other testing locations in Manitoba a current sore is needed to confirm the presence of herpes. That’s because the clinician needs to swab a sore for a PCR test to send to a lab for testing. If you do develop a sore that you suspect might be an STI, it’s best to have a swab test done within 72 hours so they can get a sample for analysis.

Only in a few situations do we currently use a blood test to identify herpes(HSV) antibodies. This might include when someone is HIV positive, pregnant, or has specific medical history to warrant further testing for antibodies. This would also be free but is not normally done without a knowledgeable clinician who assesses when or if this blood test is useful or necessary.

For most diagnostic purposes here in Manitoba, PCR testing done by swabbing a sore is the routine test that is offered.

As for your question about being tested every week: we don’t recommend getting tested for STIs every week, even when you have multiple partners. Sexual health can be managed by finding a health care provider you can have open conversations about testing, prevention and harm reduction with, so that you can have the sex life you wish while at the same time preventing STI transmission to your partners. Your care provider may have guidance about how frequently to get tested, what types of test are right for you, what types of sex are more able to pass infection and what you can do to lessen those chances. Testing for and treating any STIs that are detected are also a key piece of that sexual health routine.

In the meantime, you may also want chat with your partners about what safer sex tools they like to use or what STI testing practices they have. Herpes is a common STI and there are ways to help reduce the chance of exposure during sex or continue your sex life even if you are diagnosed with herpes.