Alberta Health Services (AHS) issued a release this week letting Albertans know sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as gonorrhoea and syphilis, have reached outbreak levels in the province.
Gonorrhoea cases have risen 80% from 2014 to 2015 with more than 3,400 cases reported in 2015. The ratio of gonorrhoea cases (82 cases in 100,000 people) in Alberta are the highest they’ve been since the late 1980s. The female rate has increased by 93% within the year and the male rate has increased by 66%. Nearly half of the female gonorrhoea cases were identified in women of Indigenous ethnicity.
The number of syphilis cases has surpassed the previous high in 2009. In 2015, there were more than 350 cases of infectious syphilis in Alberta, doubling case counts in 2014. Eighty-six per cent of the cases were found in males who have sex with males.
Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Karen Grimsrud says new social media apps and sites are to blame. “[They] 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.”
The AHS says they’ll continue to increase their awareness and outreach efforts so that Albertans and specifically those at risk know the risks, know how to protect themselves, and where to get tested for STIs. Along with their social media campaign to raise awareness and encourage STI testing, the AHS has also built a website to help Albertans identify ‘sex germs.’