Healthy Living in the North

Celebrating healthy and safe relationships

Medical professional administering HIV test.

Sexual and Reproductive Health Day (and Valentine’s Day!) gives us a chance to celebrate sexuality, diversity, and pleasure and reflect on our relationships. One part of a safe and healthy relationship is knowing your STI status and regular testing from a health-care professional!

This blog post was co-written by Sam Milligan, Andrew Burton, Lesley Cerny, and Ciro Panessa. To learn more about all of our blog writers, visit our Contributors page.

Sexual and Reproductive Health Day is February 12. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, this is a good time to celebrate sexuality, diversity, and pleasure and reflect on relationships old and new. Healthy sexuality is fundamental to the physical and emotional health and well-being of individuals, couples and families. While we think about our intimate relationships, let’s not forget to think about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and about taking precautions to protect our health and the health of those we care about.

When we think about having sex with someone, we want it to be a part of a fulfilling relationship. STIs are among the most widespread infections in the world. Here in the north, we have some of the highest rates of STIs in all of B.C. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and infectious syphilis are steadily increasing. HIV and hepatitis C can be sexually transmitted, too. Because many STIs have few or no noticeable symptoms, you may think you don’t have one but the only way to be sure is to get tested! Not knowing leaves you and your partner open to potentially serious health complications like cervical cancer and sterility. Have an open and honest discussion with your doctor, ask for regular testing from a health-care professional, and follow up when you get the results.

Valentine’s Day is a time to respect, honour and celebrate our relationships. That means respecting, honouring and celebrating ourselves and those we care about. Keeping ourselves and those we love healthy is a good thing.

STIs can be treated and, in some cases, treated easily. Treatment is only part of the approach, though. As northerners, we know that STI rates are high here. The more STI testing becomes routine, the more that STIs can be prevented. We need to build up resiliency in our communities to prevent sexual ill-health in the first place. Northern Health is committed to partnering with communities to promote sexual health as an important, integral component of health and well-being.

Sam Milligan

About Sam Milligan

Sam is the regional health systems navigator in Northern Health’s blood borne pathogens (BBP) services team. In his role, he provides education and consultation services to communities and programs across the north. Some of his responsibilities include improving community access to HIV & HCV treatment, increase testing for HIV/HCV, and provide current practice education to staff, physicians, and community members. If not at work or talking about work, Sam can be found in the realms of adventures with his two young sons or hanging out with the most gorgeous woman on the planet: his wife. (Sam no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)


What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas

The welcome to Las Vegas sign is an invitation for many people to release their inhibitions.

For many, this sign is an invitation to release their inhibitions.

I went to Vegas with some friends last year and it was actually pretty good (which is a Scot’s way of saying awesome!). We took in many great shows and even saw the Chieftains, who are still going strong after almost 40 years! Our trip wasn’t quite like the movie The Hangover, but we had our moments. It was a brilliant time.

Vegas is glitz to the extreme. But underneath that shine is a dark side that can’t be ignored. It’s called “Sin City” for a reason – actually several reasons: gambling, drugs and alcohol, and sex – which Vegas is riddled with. Whether you’re going to Vegas or any other exciting destination, it’s often easy for people to slip into some bad habits while on vacation. After my Vegas vacation, I started thinking about the dangers of the “darker sides” of vacations, like slipping back into tobacco addictions, or bringing a new addiction home. So, here are some helpful tips for avoiding some of the things that give Vegas its rather scandalous reputation, but these tips are really relevant to any vacation. No matter where you go, keep in mind that you’ll be going home soon. Each topic is linked to helpful resources for your reference.

Gambling – The slot machines and other games are unavoidable. From the time you check into your room they’re everywhere. Remember, gambling is an addiction. Don’t go overboard. Consider setting a budget ahead of time and stick to it. I managed to stick to about $30.

Drugs and alcohol – Both addictive items are plentiful on many vacations and will drain your bank account, as well as that of your family and friends in a hurry if either becomes a problem. This includes tobacco use; a vacation from the snow doesn’t have to mean a vacation from quitting.

Sex – Some people often think being on vacation is the perfect time to loosen their inhibitions. But sexually transmitted infections don’t take vacations. Do yourself a favour and get educated on the dangers of unsafe sex.

There are many great events that happen in Vegas; I found the fountains at Bellagio to be magical, and luckily I avoided all of the dangers above. Some of these events should, no doubt, stay in Vegas. You don’t want to bring home a whopping credit card bill, a reemergence of an old addiction, or something more novel, like a STI. Don’t forget, these tips extend beyond Vegas to whatever sunny destination you might be visiting during the snowy season.

Happy winter vacation.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.