STI figures raise concerns, Alberta increasing testing
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 sexgerms.com 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.