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STIs reach outbreak levels in the province

Sexually transmitted infections have reached outbreak levels across Alberta.

According to the province, the rates of gonorrhea and infectious syphilis have spiked dramatically over the past year.

Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services (AHS) are working together to raise awareness about the outbreak, the risks of anonymous sexual encounters, the importance of testing, and safe sex practices.

“The effects of untreated STIs can extend to other sexual partners or babies of infected pregnant women. Although many STIs can be treated and cured, if left untreated they can result in serious health impacts and long-term implications,” says Dr. Gerry Predy, AHS Medical Officer of Health.

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Syphilis rates have risen most notably in men who have sex with men (MSM) and gonorrhea rates have increased in young Indigenous females in particular.

More than 3400 gonorrhea cases were reported in Alberta in 2015, representing an 80 per cent increase from 2014. The overall female rate in 2015 has increased 93 per cent from 2014, while the overall male rate increased by 66 per cent.

In addition, there were over 350 cases of syphilis in Alberta last year, doubling case counts from the year prior. The majority of cases, 86 per cent, were reported among the MSM category, and for one-quarter of all cases, the patients were also infected with HIV.

AHS is promoting its informative website, and continuing its social media campaign to raise awareness and encourage STI testing. At the same time, social media tools have been identified as key drivers in the increasing rates of gonorrhea and infectious syphilis.

“New social media tools enable people to communicate quickly to arrange anonymous sexual encounters, resulting in increased difficulty in tracking STIs. When people don’t know their sexual partners’ identities, it makes it difficult to contact partners for follow-up testing and treatment,” says Dr. Karen Grimsrud, Chief Medical Officer of Health.

The release issued by the provincial government states that STIs are a serious health issue for citizens in Alberta, often resulting in costs not only for one’s health, but social, emotional, and economic costs as well.

For more information, contact HealthLink by calling 811 or the STI/HIV Information Line at 1-800-772-2437.

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