Canada: Lack of Vigilance Means Rise in Diseases
August 15, 2007
In 1997, fear of HIV/AIDS and a strong public health emphasis on safe sex and using condoms helped push syphilis and gonorrhea in Canada to their lowest levels since reporting began in the 1920s. But today, both STDs have rebounded. The gonorrhea rate has increased 94 percent since 1997, and syphilis reports are nine times that nadir and are not slowing.
"The introduction of antiretroviral HIV drugs in the mid-1990s led to a return to high-risk sexual activity," said Lisa Hansen, a Public Health Agency of Canada epidemiologist. "It's going to be an ongoing challenge to handle this because people have to change their behavior."
Health officials believe much of the resurgence is occurring among gay and bisexual men. But chlamydia reports, mostly among women, have flared 70 percent since 1997. And while studies show teenagers may overestimate their risk of AIDS, they "dramatically underestimate" their STD risk, said Hansen. "We have to normalize the use of condoms for everyone, just like seatbelts and non-smoking have been normalized."
Safe sex messages are difficult to sustain, said Dr. Rita Shahin, Toronto's associate medical officer of health. People are having more partners, and some people are engaging in risky alcohol and drug-fueled sex, she said. "Then too, sex education has fallen off in recent years, and budget cutbacks have meant we're not able to send our people into the schools."
8.13.2007; Lynda Hurst
Predictors of Condom Use Among Young Adults in South Africa: The Reproductive Health and HIV Research Unit National Youth Survey
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.