Ottawa’s STI rates on the rise: report
Ottawa Public Health is looking for ways to address limited access to sexual health clinics.
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Demand for sexual health services is high in Ottawa, as the rate of sexually transmitted infections continues to increase, according to a city report.
A new sexual health report – to be tabled at the city’s board of health on Monday – says 1,400 people were turned away from sexual health clinics last year compared to just 50 in 2011. That suggests the clinics weren't able to cope with the number of people coming in for treatment.
Ottawa Public Health staff is recommending a new sexual health strategy that targets “priority” groups who carry a disproportionately high rate of sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBIs) including gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV, hepatitis B and C, herpes simplex virus and syphilis.
One of those target groups is young people. Although 21.6 per cent of the population is youth aged 15 to 29 years old, a whopping 78.7 per cent of Chlamydia cases and 54.9 per cent of gonorrhea cases stem from that group, according to the report.
As for HIV rates, gay men or men who have sex with other men represent 63.8 per cent of all cases. Immigrants from countries where HIV is endemic also make up a disproportionate number of HIV cases (19 per cent) with injection drug users trailing at 17.2 per cent.
This latter group also represents the majority of all hepatitis C cases, at 50.3 per cent.
Income levels may also factor into STBBI rates and treatment, according to the report. The bottom 33 per cent of Canadian income earners are 50 per cent less likely to see a doctor. In Ottawa, low-income earners represent 12 per cent of the population and 11.1 per cent do not have a regular doctor.
However, a previous sexual health strategy, approved in June 2011, did address some of these pervasive STI problems. Among the new initiatives, Ottawa Public Health launched five new satellite clinics to welcome 1,884 more clients every year, increased condom distribution by 51 per cent and became the first health unit to offer online condom orders.
Ottawa Public Health staff said they would work with community partners to pinpoint sexual health and harm reduction needs.