News / Ottawa

STI cases on the rise in Ottawa

Community advocates say revamped interventions are needed

Ottawa has seen a spike in a number of sexually transmitted infections.

MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP

Ottawa has seen a spike in a number of sexually transmitted infections.

Sexual health advocates are calling for structural interventions to counter the spike in sexually transimitted infections in Ottawa.

According to numbers from the Ottawa Public Health, cases of syphilis infections increased from 37 in 2012 to 136 in 2016. In the same period, cases of chlamydia spiked from 2532 to 3262, while those of gonorrhea jumped from 236 to 371.

So far this year there have been over 440 cases of gonorrhea reported, according to Ottawa Public Health.

While the rate of sexually transmitted infections has been steadily increasing in many high-income countries over the past 15 years, the trend is particularly concerning given the increased public awareness campaigns, said Frederique Chabot, health information officer at Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights.

"We have a lot of tools at our disposal to actually have a substantive impact and prevent new infections, but that has not been the case," she said.

She said a number of structural interventions need to happen in order to reverse the trend. A comprehensive, age-appropriate sexual education should include human and sexual rights, gender equality, healthy relationships and sexual reproductive health.

"We should not just be focusing on a fear-based approach to STIs, where people are shown scary pictures of STI impact with no context," she said. A kid in Ontario may have access to up-to-date curriculum while in Alberta some contractors may still be teaching abstinence only or religious-based sexual education, Chabot added.

"The fact that it's a patchwork in terms of access, that's a really big problem," she said, noting more youth-friendly and diverse healthcare providers are needed to serve people in an open and non-stigmatizing way.

"We say that Canada's healthacre is universal but many groups are still underserved."

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