Canada: Alberta Syphilis Awareness Campaign Scratched by Health Minister
August 15, 2008
Health Minister Ron Liepert said Thursday he does not support a general syphilis education campaign in Alberta, where some public health experts believe the disease has reached a critical level.
Syphilis rates in Alberta began to rise in 2005. Since then, five infants have died of congenital syphilis. In 2007, the province declared an outbreak of the STD. Liepert said efforts to prevent the spread of syphilis should target those populations at highest risk for the disease.
"You have to remember that 95 percent of Albertans are not impacted by [syphilis]. I'm not necessarily going to subscribe to a province-wide ad campaign that could be communicating more to senior citizens than it is to street workers," said Liepert. "Doesn't it make more sense to have a focused campaign, which we're currently undertaking, to address those in the high-risk category, than the 95 percent who are not?"
"What we need to do is convince Albertans to take some personal responsibility," said Liepert. "This is a preventable disease, this is not cancer." "Those Albertans who are high-risk have to take more responsibility for their own personal health and not leave it up to the general population to take responsibility for them."
Dr. James Talbot, associate medical health officer for Capital Health, said syphilis rates have fallen in the past year. The province recorded 23 cases from Jan. 1 to July 31 this year, compared to 63 cases during the same time last year. Talbot credited Capital Health campaigns aimed at high-risk groups, including people ages 15-30, drug users and sex workers and their clients. The awareness efforts have focused on bars, inner-city outreach groups and the Edmonton Remand Center, and on improving testing at the Edmonton STD clinic, he said.
8.15.2008; Alexandra Zabjek
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