Sexually transmitted diseases rise in Edmonton, northern Alberta

Sexually transmitted infections and HIV continue to rise across the province, most notably in Edmonton and the north, according to the latest numbers contained in a report from Alberta Health.

The report examines infection rates from 2005 to 2013.

With the exception of syphilis, the infection rates for STIs — chlamydia and gonorrhea — rose overall, but were highest in the Northern Zone and Edmonton Zone, said the Alberta Health, Surveillance and Assessment STI and HIV 2013 Annual Report.

Not a surprise, said Dr. James Talbot, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health 

“Wherever you have the highest population of 15 to 40 year olds is where you’re going to see most disease,” he said.

Companies in Alberta’s oilpatch must do more to encourage safe-sex practices among workers, such as distributing condoms, Talbot said.

“We have started to talk to employers in the area about innovative things we might be able to do to get to their workforce to make sure they’re protected.”

Antibiotic resistance a concern

Clamydia rates have jumped each year, with numbers consistently higher among females especially those 20 to 24 years of age.

Chlamydia, the most common STI in the province, is easily treatable with antibiotics, but may go unnoticed because it is often present without symptoms leading to complications.

Gonorrhea, the second most common STI, saw rates rebound, especially among males, despite a drop in rates in 2010.

The rebound is alarming as resistance to the antibiotics used to treat the disease is developing, the report said.

Rates for HIV continue to climb, with the rate of new cases higher among men than women.

Most worrisome is an increase in HIV positive patients diagnosed with chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis, suggesting more of those people are participating in unsafe sex.

The one bright note is that the rates of syphilis have dropped since 2010 by more than one third, from 4.8 cases per 100,000 to 3.0 cases.

During those years, syphilis was targeted by provincial ad campaigns.

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