STI fig­ures raise con­cerns, Al­berta in­creas­ing test­ing

Medicine Hat News - - COMMUNITY - GIL­LIAN SLADE gslade@medicine­hat­ Twit­ter: MHNGil­lianSlade

The Al­berta gov­ern­ment has an­nounced in­creased test­ing for sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions, as well as ef­forts to raise aware­ness of safe-sex prac­tices after con­tin­ued out­breaks of in­fec­tious syphilis and gon­or­rhea.

There have been six cases of con­gen­i­tal syphilis re­ported in Al­berta this year.

“We are very con­cerned that syphilis and gon­or­rhea rates con­tinue to be high in Al­berta. We are hard at work help­ing peo­ple liv­ing with or at risk of con­tract­ing an STI,” Dr. Deena Hin­shaw, deputy chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer of health, said in a press re­lease.

AHS has cre­ated a po­si­tion for a nurse, ded­i­cated to provin­cial pre­na­tal syphilis, tol co-or­di­nate care for fol­low-up of all pre­na­tal clients with in­fec­tious syphilis, as well as in­fants born to these clients.

There have been nine cases of in­fec­tious syphilis in 2017 to date.

Col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween AHS, the province and com­mu­nity stake­hold­ers will con­tinue to be cen­tral to man­age­ment of the out­break, says Dr. Gerry Predy, se­nior med­i­cal of­fi­cer of health.

Al­berta Health is up­dat­ing the Al­berta Pre­na­tal Screen­ing Guide­lines to rec­om­mend chlamy­dia and gon­or­rhea test­ing for all preg­nant women in the first trimester, with re­peat test­ing in the third trimester for those at high risk of STIs. All preg­nant mothers are al­ready tested for syphilis early in preg­nancy and again be­fore de­liv­ery.

Since Oc­to­ber, AHS has ex­panded STI test­ing through its Test & Treat pro­gram, to in­clude test­ing of the throat and rec­tum. Sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions can in­fect the throat and rec­tum and may re­quire dif­fer­ent treat­ment than in­fec­tions in other sites in the body.

Al­berta Health will be­gin in Fe­bru­ary cov­er­ing the cost for Hu­man Papil­lo­mavirus im­mu­niza­tion (HPV9) for men who have sex with men (MSM) and trans­gen­der women aged 17 to 26. Peo­ple within the MSM pop­u­la­tion may have dis­pro­por­tion­ately high rates of com­pli­ca­tions from HPV in­fec­tion com­pared to the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. They are about 20 times more likely than het­ero­sex­ual men to de­velop anal cancer. The pri­mary goal of the HPV im­mu­niza­tion pro­gram is to pre­vent cancer.

Over the next three years, Al­berta Health will pro­vide $18.5 mil­lion to the Al­berta Com­mu­nity Coun­cil on HIV, a non-profit group sup­port vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions in­clud­ing those with STIs. The coun­cil pro­vides fund­ing to com­mu­nity-based or­ga­ni­za­tions for health-pro­mo­tion ac­tiv­i­ties.

In 2016, there were 3,707 cases of gon­or­rhea re­ported in Al­berta, dou­ble the num­ber re­ported in 2014, ac­cord­ing to data re­leased Tues­day. Up to Oct. 31 this year there were 3,869 cases, and of those, 106 were in the south zone.

There were 1,188 cases of gon­or­rhea in 2010, ac­cord­ing to an Al­berta Health doc­u­ment.

In 2016, there were more than 400 cases of in­fec­tious syphilis re­ported in Al­berta, 2.5 times more cases than in 2014. For just part of this year, up to Oct. 31, there were 369.

There were 168 in­fec­tious syphilis cases across the province in 2010, ac­cord­ing to a gov­ern­ment doc­u­ment.

In 2016, the pro­por­tion of fe­male in­fec­tious syphilis cases in­creased to 13 per cent, from five per cent the pre­vi­ous year. This year is pro­jected to sur­pass 2016’s num­bers.

To be tested for STIs, visit your fam­ily doc­tor, a walk-in clinic or for more clinic lo­ca­tions. If you would like more in­for­ma­tion, call Health Link at 811, or the STI/HIV In­for­ma­tion Line at 1800-772-2437.

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