January 23, 2008
A recent study found higher rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia in the Arctic than in Southern Canada, which could leave the region open to HIV. "It's definitely been going up in the North, and it's rather alarming at how fast," said Dionne Gesink Law, a report co-author. The study compared rates of the two STDs in the three Northern territories, Southern Canada, Alaska, and Greenland between 2003 and 2006.
The study found rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia in the territories were eight times those reported in the provinces. Still, the gonorrhea rate has declined a bit in the North, while the incidence of chlamydia is increasing much faster than in the South. Chlamydia grew by 18 percent in the territories and 8 percent in the South over the study period.
"Our main concern with chlamydia and gonorrhea is that they cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility in women," Gesink Law said. "When you look at who's actually infected, it's young people and particularly young women."
The risky sexual practices that can lead to these STDs are the same behavior that risks HIV infection, said Gesink Law. And the same precautions that would protect against these STDs, including condom use during sex, protect against HIV.
Gesink Law recommended community-based prevention, monitoring and education programs in the territories. "They will have a much better sense of what's actually going on and what the factors are that are contributing to the transmissions," she said. "It's much more effective if they can work on this together with us, as much as they need us."
The full report, "Sexual Health and Sexually Transmitted Infections in the North American Arctic," was published in Emerging Infectious Diseases (2008;14(1)).