University Health Centre

Sexual Health Services

Sexual health and sexuality are crucial parts of our overall health and wellness. Maintaining good sexual health practices can include consistent and correct contraceptive use, STI testing, Hepatitis A & B and HPV vaccinations, conversations with our sexual partners about our sexuality, and more.

UHC is a safe space for all LGBTQI2+ members of the U of A community.

We offer sexual health counselling and testing to individuals of all genders, identities, orientations, and abilities.


STI Testing

STIs, or sexually transmitted infections, are spread from person to person through sexual contact. STIs may be spread through oral, anal, or vaginal sex as well as through injection drug use.

Most STIs don’t show obvious signs or symptoms, so testing is important in maintaining good sexual health. Early detection can help to reduce or avoid complications and minimize the spread of STIs.

STIs are easy to test for and testing is available through the UHC.

  • Can the UHC do all types of STI testing?

    STI tests vary depending on the type of infection and may include swabs, urine collection, and blood samples.

    It’s not unusual to be unsure about what you need to be tested for — the best thing to do is to discuss it with a physician or other health care provider.

    UHC physicians are able to take swab samples, however blood tests and urine samples will require a lab requisition, which can be done at UHC, prior to visiting an offsite lab. There are many lab sites in Edmonton with locations conveniently close campus.

  • What happens if my results are positive?

    It’s okay — most STIs are easily treatable with antibiotics. You will have the opportunity to discuss treatment options with a physician at UHC.

    STI information and testing is confidential.

    In the case of positive STI tests, information will be reported to the Public Health Department, as per the Public Health Act so that STI rates may be tracked. All personal information at UHC is kept confidential under the Health Information Act.

    You may be contacted by a public health nurse to ensure that you have been or will be treated and to make sure that any sexual partner(s) will be notified as well or the public health nurse can contact any partner(s) for you. Your partner(s) will need to be notified and treated also to ensure that any infection is not spread to another person.

  • When should I get tested for STIs?

    When you begin new relationship(s).

    When you have new sexual partner(s).

    If you feel like you might be at risk of having a STI.

    If you are experiencing any symptoms of a STI.

    If it’s been a while since you were last tested.

Contraception

Contraception, or birth control, is used to prevent pregnancy. There are many forms of contraception available to you; coverage depends on your U of A health benefits plan.

The 3 most popular forms of prescribed contraception on campus are IUDs, the oral contraceptive pill, and the vaginal ring. Condoms are another popular form of contraception and can be purchased without a prescription.

Come in and speak with a UHC physician about what option will work best for you.

  • IUDs

    IUDs are one of the most popular contraceptive devices on campus. The IUD is the most effective form of contraception and can be easily removed by a health care practitioner. The IUD is inserted into the uterus with no other steps for use, other than annual checkups. While the up-front cost may seem high, it is one of the most cost effective forms of contraception. The U of A benefits plan will cover up to 80% of the cost of the IUD at a pharmacy.

    The Mirena IUD can be prescribed by a UHC physician or pharmacist and inserted by Dr. Tankel, an obstetrician-gynecologist working at UHC. Please call UHC to book an appointment with Dr. Tankel.

  • Oral Contraceptive Pill

    The birth control pill is another popular form of contraception on campus. The pill is highly effective, reversible, and can help to regulate the menstrual cycle.

  • Vaginal Ring

    The Nuvaring is a soft, flexible ring that is inserted into the vagina. It can stay in the vagina for up to 3 weeks while slowly releasing hormones. The vaginal ring is highly effective, reversible, and can regulate the menstrual cycle.

Testicular Exams

Testicular exams are performed to check for signs of testicular cancer. A testicular exam can be self-performed at home. Ask a UHC physician about how to properly self-perform a testicular exam.

UTI/Urine Pregnancy Tests

UTIs are infections of the urinary tract, including the bladder, ureters, urethra, and kidneys. UTIs happen when there are bacteria in the urinary tract; they tend to be more common in the female urinary tract.

Urine tests, or urine cultures, can determine if there is an infection in the urinary tract. If you are concerned that you might have a UTI, you can see a physician at UHC. You will be required to provide a urine sample for testing before your visit with the physician.

Urine pregnancy tests can also be performed at UHC. A UHC nurse will test the urine and the results can then be interpreted by a UHC physician.

Pap Tests and Pelvic Exams

Pelvic exams, or internal exams, are performed to determine the health of the female reproductive organs. Pap testing may be a part of a pelvic exam, if it is required.

  • A Pap test:

    is a quick test that requires a swab to collect cervical cells for testing.

    looks for any changes or abnormal cervical cells.

    is usually just a few short minutes and can be uncomfortable.

    should never be painful, though if you do experience any pain during a Pap test you should let the physician know.

In Alberta, guidelines suggest getting your first Pap test at age 25 or 3 years after the first time you have intercourse — whichever comes later.

You can see any UHC physician for any questions relating to pelvic exams or Pap testing, or to get either of these exams done.

If you wish to see Dr. Tankel, the obstetrician-gynecologist, for either of these exams, please call UHC to book an appointment (check if you are eligible to see Dr. Tankel here).

HPV

HPV is the most common STI among Canadians. There are over 100 different strains of HPV with various side effects, including genital warts and cancer.

There are typically no symptoms associated with HPV. HPV can be passed through sexual contact, including: intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, and genital rubbing. Condoms may provide some form of protection against HPV, but vaccination (including the Gardasil-9 vaccine) offers the best protection against HPV.

  • The Gardasil-9 Vaccine

    Gardasil-9 is a vaccine that works to prevent infection from 9 specific strains of the Human papillomavirus (HPV) that may lead to HPV-related cancers (i.e. cervical cancer, anal cancer, vaginal and vulvar cancer) and genital warts.

    The Gardasil-9 vaccine comes in a series of 3 doses over a period of 6 months. Gardasil-9 can be administered to all genders.

    You can see a UHC physician for a consultation regarding Gardasil-9 prescription. The vaccine is not publicly funded through UHC and a fee will be assessed.