We're here to be a resource to you and answer your questions. If you have any questions that you don't see here, please ask us here and we'll be able to help you find answers.
YouthCO is open 10:00 – 5:00 Monday to Friday and we have lots of free condoms and lube – or you can pick them up at your nearest youth clinic.
Condoms are the only thing that prevent both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. They work best when they’re used correctly, and with lots of water-based or silicone lube.
To learn how to properly put on a condom, check out our condom demo video on YouTube.
We can also turn a condom into a dental dam, for safer oral sex on an anus (rimming) or vulva (going down / eating out).
Having safer sex can also mean talking to our partners about our sexual health, getting tested, and choosing forms of intimacy that are less likely to pass STIs. And of course, making sure that ourselves and our partners are into whatever it is we’re doing by first getting consent.
YouthCO has a needle exchange and harm reduction program open from 10:00 – 5:00 Monday – Friday. We’ve also got some helpful information about how to prevent HIV and Hep C from being passed, and on using drugs safely.
- Taste before you use
- Always use with a buddy
- Use a new needle for each injection
- It’s not safe to break off the tip of the needle or re-cap it
- If you haven’t used in a while, reduce your dose
- Protect yourself and your community – dispose of your equipment safely, preferably in a sharps bin
- Avoid sharing straws or bills
- Rinse the inside of your nose before and after railing by dabbing your fingers in water and sniffing until you feel water running down the back of your throat
- After railing, consider applying vitamin E oil to your nostrils to aid in the healing process
- Smoke in a safe space with people that you trust
- Inhale slowly and exhale immediately – don’t hold it in
- Know your limits – once you’re high, stop smoking
- Keep your pipe clean by burning off the residue and then scrubbing it with alcohol swabs
- Don’t be alarmed by feelings of extreme depression once you’re sober – it’s how your body may be reacting to the drug
I want to have fun without using drugs
- YouthCO plans social events, dance parties, and movie nights. Check out our events calendar for more info!
It isn't always easy to use condoms. If we didn’t use condoms, or if the condom broke, we may want to think about…
- Preventing Pregnancy: If we want to prevent pregnancy, we can take Plan B, the emergency contraceptive pill, as soon as possible and within 3 days of having sex without a condom. In BC, Plan B is available for a small price at drug stores, and we don’t need a prescription.
- Getting a Pregnancy Test: If we want to know if we’re pregnant, we can pick up an at-home pregnancy test at our local drug store. Results will be accurate within 14 days of having penis-in-vagina sex without a condom.
- Preventing HIV: If we know or think that our partner is living with HIV, there is medication called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) that we can take within 72 hours to reduce our chances of getting HIV. To get PEP in the Vancouver area, visit HIM's website.
- Getting Tested for STIs: Sex without condoms puts us at risk of getting sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV and Hep C.
Find a clinic near you:
Great! There are lots of places to get tested for HIV, Hep C, and/or STIs: the doctor, a walk-in clinic, a hospital, or a sexual health or youth clinic. Our first choice is always a youth clinic, because the people who work in these spaces are pros at talking to youth!
Depending on what we're being tested for, we may be asked to provide a blood sample, urine sample, or our health care provider (a nurse or doctor) may need to swab our throat, cervix, or bum. In most cases, we'll provide a sample on our visit to a clinic, and then we'll need to wait for results.
In some places, we may be able to get a rapid HIV test, which can give us a result right away. If we test positive for HIV on this test, we'll need to have our results confirmed with a second test.
Before and after getting tested, the nurse or doctor will help support us through the process.
- Before getting tested, we'll be asked:
- Are we ready to get tested?
- Are we ready for a positive result?
- Is there someone we could talk to about a positive result?
- After getting, the nurse or doctor will give us information about safer sex and harm reduction, connect us with community services, such as YouthCO, and explains what the “next steps” are if we test positive.
To find a clinic near you, check out the Clinic Finder from Smart Sex Resource!
There are lots of places we can get tested for HIV, Hep C, and/or STIs: our doctor, a walk-in clinic, a hospital, or a sexual health or youth clinic. Our first choice is always a youth clinic, because the people who work in these spaces are pros at talking to youth! If we go to a doctor, we'll usually have to go to a separate lab to provide the samples. At a clinic, we'll be able to provide our samples and talk to a nurse in the same place!
The Smart Sex Resource website has a clinic finder that shows us a map of clinics throughout British Columbia, including when they are open and what kinds of services they provide. For example, if we want a rapid HIV test, we can search for clinics that offer this kind of test.
We also may be able to sign up to get STI tests without going to a clinic if we live in certain parts of BC. Learn more about the GetCheckedOnline program here.
Finding out we have HIV can feel scary or overwhelming. At YouthCO, we offer peer support for young people living with HIV or Hep C. Call us to find out more: 604-688-1441, or check out our staff listing to send us an email.
With any new health condition, it’s important to get as informed as possible. Check out our Resource page for community resources, websites, and more information.
If you’ve just been diagnosed, there are some important things to know:
HIV is not a terminal illness
One really important thing to remember is that HIV is a chronic illness, which means it’s something that you will have for a long time. It also means it’s not something that will automatically lead to death.
There is treatment
Today there are over 30 antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) available, and many more being made, to treat HIV. These drugs do not cure HIV, but lower the amount of virus in the body to the point of being “undetectable” so that it does less damage to our immune systems. This means that people living with HIV can have long and healthy lives, and are less likely to pass the virus to sexual partners.
Treatment is free in British Columbia
If you live in BC, HIV meds are free. The British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS provides a Drug Treatment Program (DTP) to ensure that all persons living with HIV in BC have access to free antiretroviral therapy.
Being HIV+ does not mean you have AIDS
HIV is an acronym for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which over time without treatment it can cause AIDS. AIDS is an acronym for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, which is a group of symptoms that occur once HIV infects and weakens the immune system over time. With the latest meds, the number of people living with AIDS is decreasing in BC.
People living with HIV can still have sex and children
Being diagnosed with HIV does not mean your sex life or ability to have children ends. With HIV, there is more to consider when having sex, such as disclosure and preventing it from being passed. With treatment and condoms we can still enjoy sex and prevent HIV from being passed to our partners. Likewise, with medications and other techniques (such as sperm washing and artificial insemination), people living with HIV can safely conceive and give birth without passing HIV to partners or babies.
There are lots of programs and support
Vancouver, BC, and Canada have lots of programs and support for people living with HIV. Accessing support groups, peer navigators, recreational programs, and social services can improve our health and help us live well with HIV. Check out our community resources page for more information.
Finding out we have Hep C can feel scary or overwhelming. At YouthCO, we offer peer support for young people living with HIV or Hep C. You can get in touch with us by calling 604-688-1441, or through our Facebook page!
With any new health condition, getting the facts we need can help make it less scary. Check out our Resource page for community resources, websites, and more information, including a peer support phone line, Help4HepBC, which we can reach at 1 888 411 7578. The phone call, support and information are all provided free of charge.
If you’ve just been diagnosed, there are some important things to know:
Hep C is not a terminal illness
One really important thing to remember is that Hep C is a chronic illness, which means it’s something that we will have for a long time. For about 25% of people with Hep C, the virus will go away on its own. By taking care of our livers and health, we can live long healthy lives with Hep C.
There is treatment for Hep C
Treatment for Hep C is the best it has ever been! A health care worker can help us decide what treatment is best for us and how to get started.
There is support
Vancouver, BC, and Canada have programs, support for people living with Hep C. Accessing support groups, peer navigators, recreational programs, and social services can improve our health and help us live well with Hep C. Check out our community resources page for more information.
That’s OK! Sexual identity and gender identity are unique to each person – variations are unlimited, and they are all valid.
We may feel pressure to put a label on what we’re feeling, but we don’t have to. Some people say they always knew their sexual orientation, and / or that they were gender variant or trans. For some of us, it’s more of a gradual process.
It’s OK to give ourselves time to explore our own identity and, if we want to, build up the strength and courage to share this with others. Coming out to ourselves, our friends, and family doesn’t just happen once – it’s a continuous process.
Some things to consider before coming out to our friends and families:
- Are we emotionally ready to share our sexual orientation or gender with others?
- Do we have someone to go to for emotional support?
- Can we anticipate and prepare for how our friends and family will react?
At YouthCO, we offer peer support. Call us to find out more: 604-681-1441
Check out these resources:
If you need to talk to someone right away call the BC Crisis Centre: 604-872-3311
We all feel down sometimes and sometimes we may need help to feel more ourselves. If you need to talk to someone right away, call the BC Crisis Centre:
- Greater Vancouver: 604-872-3311
- Lower Mainland & Sunshine Coast: 1-866-661-3311
- Outside the Lower Mainland: 1-800-SUICIDE
We live in a culture where it can be hard to tell people how we really feel. Sometimes, talking with someone else about what we’re dealing with can make us feel a lot better. Many of the programs and workshops we have at YouthCO are great places to talk about what is happening in our lives. Check out our events calendar to find out what we have coming up.
Support is also available at the following places:
- www.youthinbc.com online chat available from 12pm - 1am every day where we can chat with a peer about what is going on for us
- www.mindcheck.ca is an interactive website where we can check out how we’re feeling and get connected to support early and quickly
We can also call the YouthCO office (604-688-1441) or email [email protected] if we'd like a more specific referral.
It is never our fault if someone violates our consent. If we need to talk to someone about an experience where we did not consent, we can call WAVAW’s 24-hour toll-free crisis line at 1-877-392-7583. For more information about this line, visit the website at https://www.wavaw.ca/24-hour-crisis-and-information-line/.
What is consent?
Consent is an enthusiastic and freely given YES. We cannot consent to sex with people who are in a position of authority over us (like a teacher, coach, parent, or babysitter), and we cannot give consent if we are drunk or high.
Consent is about good communication, and good communication is sexy. Communicating with our partner about what we want when it comes to sex can increase safety, pleasure, and intimacy. One great tool to help with this is Scarleteen's Yes, No, Maybe checklist!
Consent is a shared responsibility. Everyone involved must consent! When we are having sex, giving and getting consent is necessary for everyone involved, not just the person who initiated sex.
We can always change our minds about consent. We can say yes to something and decide to change our mind by saying no at any point during the activity. We can always withdraw our consent if we’re not into it at any point.
Consenting to one sexual act does not mean consenting to another. Consenting to oral sex does not mean we’re consenting to anal sex. Consenting on Friday does not mean consenting on Saturday.
Nothing makes consent automatic or unnecessary. Being in a relationship with someone does not give us consent. Saying “I love you” is not consent. How we dress or act is not consent.
In some situations, full, informed, and free consent cannot be given or shared. These include: being drunk, high, severely stressed out (grieving, ill, seriously upset), or unable to understand the other person’s words or other means of communication. Not stopping when someone is incapable of giving consent is sexual assault.
Non-consent means STOP. If there’s no consent through actions or our words, STOP. Not stopping is sexual assault.
A lack of NO does NOT mean YES. Even if we don't say "no" out loud, it does not mean we have consented to a specific activity. We may be saying no in our body language, attitude, or in things we communicated before.
If we don’t consent to a sexual act, it’s sexual assault.
It is never our fault if we are sexually assaulted. There are many ways we can take care of ourselves if we have been sexually assaulted. Finding a trusted person to talk to is a great first step.
Some of us may choose to report sexual assault. We can report sexual assault at a clinic, hospital, or police department. If you need to talk to someone right away call the BC Crisis Centre: 604-872-3311 or WAVAW’s 24-hour toll-free crisis line at 1-877-392-7583.
PrEP is one of the newest HIV-related acronyms! It stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. PrEP is an HIV prevention strategy whereby those of us who are HIV-negative take HIV medications on a daily basis before, and continuing after, activities where there is a possibility of getting HIV.
‘Pre-Exposure’ indicates that the medication must be taken prior to, and continuing after, potential exposure to HIV, and ‘prophylaxis’ is a word to describe medications that can prevent infection. PrEP works by making it harder for HIV to establish itself once the virus is our bodies.
The brand name of the medication currently used for PrEP is Truvada. Truvada is a pill that combines the anti-HIV medications tenofovir and emtricitabine. Initially used to treat people living with HIV, Truvada was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use as PrEP in 2012. While Truvada is approved by Health Canada for use as HIV treatment, it has not been approved for use as PrEP.
For more details about PrEP, visit www.youthco.org/prep.
HPV stands for Human papillomavirus. There are 100+ types of HPV, many of which involve our genitals. HPV is very common: most Canadians who are sexually active will have HPV at some point. This virus is passed through skin-to-skin contact during vaginal and anal sex. Most of the time, HPV is not serious, and our bodies will clear the virus from our bodies without us even knowing. However, some types of HPV cause bumpy genital warts and other types of HPV are more serious because they may cause cancer of the anus, cervix, mouth and throat, penis, vagina, and vulva.
The HPV vaccine prevents 70% of genital cancers and 90% of genital warts. It was first offered at no charge in BC in 2008, to school-age girls, and since then, the program has expanded to include more (but still not all) youth. The most up-to-date information about who can get an HPV vaccine for free through the public program is available through Immunize BC (http://immunizebc.ca/diseases-vaccinations/hpv).
Talking to a doctor or a nurse is a good way to know if the HPV vaccine is right for us. If we are living with HIV and get care from a doctor, this could be a good person to talk to about whether or not we want to get the HPV vaccine. Youth clinics are also a great place to learn more about the HPV vaccine. To find a youth clinic near you in BC, see this list. Smart Sex Resource also has a clinic finder that shows us a map of clinics throughout British Columbia, including when they are open and what kinds of services they provide.
Even if we can’t get an HPV vaccine for free, we may decide to purchase it for ourselves (although, it is pricey!) If we decide to get the HPV vaccine, we’ll typically get three doses over a six month period.
YouthCO continues to welcome expanded access to publicly funded HPV vaccine program.