What You Need to Know Before You Hook Up This Summer

Brad Tiller

Following years of COVID-19 lockdowns and the mpox outbreak of 2022, many of us have been looking forward to months of love and celebration this summer without serious health concerns holding us back.

While health concerns may have eased up for the summer of 2023, you should remain serious about your sexual health — especially if you’re looking to meet new partners and hook up this summer. Research shows that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) occur more frequently in summer and early autumn as sexual activity, particularly with new partners, hits a peak.

But that doesn’t mean you should deny yourself a summer of fun. When you’re mindful of your sexual health and take steps to keep yourself safe, you can enjoy your hookups this summer with way less stress. Here are some tips to help you prioritize your sexual health as you connect with new partners!

Get tested for STIs

Staying up-to-date with your STI testing is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your sexual health and ensure you’re not putting your partners at risk.

Before you embark on your summer hookup adventures, make sure your STI testing is up to date and get tested for:

  • HIV
  • Syphilis
  • Hepatitis B
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea

Looking for a place to get tested? Talk to your doctor, or check out our list of sexual health clinics in Toronto, Montreal, Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary and Edmonton here.

Get vaccinated against STIs

One of the best things you can do to be proactive about your sexual health is to get vaccinated.

Gay, bisexual, other men who have sex with men (commonly abbreviated in medical literature as “MSM”), and trans women are at a greatly increased risk of contracting specific sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and viruses that can spread through sexual contact. Fortunately, it’s possible to get vaccinated against many of them! Plus, many Canadian provinces have programs that allow you to get vaccinated for cheap or even for free. Look into getting vaccinated for:

  • Hepatitis A and B: The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Canadian government both strongly recommend vaccination against hepatitis A and B for gay, bisexual, and other MSM.
  • HPV: HPV infections, caused by the human papillomavirus, are the the most common type of STI. Almost every sexually active person (who isn’t vaccinated) is likely to be infected by at least one type of HPV in their lifetimes, although they may show no symptoms. Different types of HPV can cause different issues, ranging from anogenital warts (warts around the genitals and anus) to cancer. HPV vaccines are most effective in those who have not yet begun sexual activity (and therefore are less likely to have already been exposed to HPV), so they are usually recommended most for those under 27 years of age. However, adults over 27 can still get vaccinated for HPV — even if you’ve already been exposed to one type of HPV, you can still be protected against others.
  • Mpox (formerly known as “monkeypox”): Mpox cast a shadow over the queer community when a global outbreak occurred just before the summer of 2022, immediately following years of COVID-19 related restrictions that had already made dating, meeting up and finding your community more difficult. While the World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared an end to the mpox global health emergency, new cases are still emerging across Canada and the possibility of contracting mpox is real. Unlike many other vaccines, the mpox vaccine can still be effective at preventing illness or reducing symptoms if taken within 14 days of exposure — but that doesn’t mean you should wait until you suspect you’ve been exposed to get vaccinated.

Take PrEP to prevent HIV

PrEP is the best way to prevent yourself from getting HIV. Short for pre-exposure prophylaxis, PrEP is a once-per-day HIV prevention pill that’s proven to reduce the risk of contracting HIV by up to 99%. PrEP can be taken by anyone who isn’t already HIV+.

Side effects associated with taking PrEP are minimal, with under 10% of patients experiencing any side effects at all — and most of those tend to clear up within two weeks of starting PrEP.

To learn even more about PrEP, check out our PrEP explainer

Get PrEP fast (and potentially free!) with Freddie

Freddie makes it fast and easy to get a PrEP prescription online and have it delivered discreetly to your door (or if you prefer, to a local pharmacy). That’s probably why Freddie is the #1 prescriber of PrEP in Canada!

Over 90% of Freddie patients pay nothing for their PrEP prescription. To find out if you can get PrEP through Freddie, start by taking our 1 minute assessment.

Use condoms — even if you’re on PrEP

While PrEP can prevent you from getting HIV, it won’t do anything to prevent other STIs. In fact, some research points to individuals on PrEP experiencing a higher incidence of other types of STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, potentially due to the perceived protection of PrEP encouraging riskier sexual behaviour.

There are many reasons why individuals choose not to use condoms when having sex. If someone’s primary reason for using condoms is to avoid HIV transmission, they could feel that PrEP is sufficient protection alone. Research has also pointed to condomless sex being perceived as an expression of trust and, consequently, using condoms as a symbol of mistrust. People under the influence of alcohol and recreational drugs can be more likely to make risky decisions, such as having unprotected sex. Mood and self-perception are also factors; people in a negative emotional state may be less likely to be mindful of their sexual health.

So one of the best ways to stay safe when hooking up is to set a simple rule for yourself: no matter how you’re feeling, no matter what you’re under the influence of, and no matter what pressure anyone applies to you, use a condom when hooking up.

We hope the advice in this article above helps you set the stage for an incredible summer (and beyond!) of healthy hookups. We have a few more resources for you, too: