January 31, 2011
STDs in Ottawa are at their highest levels since 2000, and the situation is particularly bad among young adults, according to Dr. Isra Levy, medical officer of health with Ottawa Public Health.
In a presentation Thursday to Ottawa City Council's public health working group, Levy pointed out that over the last decade, chlamydia increased 89 percent, gonorrhea 105 percent, and syphilis 4,900 percent. Levy noted that in the past five years among women ages 15-24, chlamydia cases have doubled and gonorrhea cases have nearly doubled. Men, on the other hand, experienced an increased incidence of syphilis. These numbers point to a trend that young adults are abandoning safe-sex habits, said Levy.
"Where people have access to drugs that can treat HIV ... there's been a cultural shift to less-safe sex, more partners, and nonuse of condoms," Levy told the council, which will become the new Ottawa Board of Health once its membership is finalized. "People take risks in their sexual practice. We know that."
Additionally, Levy told the council that approximately 10 percent of Ottawa's school-age children are "insufficiently immunized." Ottawa Public Health handles 45 cases of tuberculosis every year, each requiring up to 18 months of follow-up to ensure that the disease is treated successfully and has not spread. These statistics have led the public health department to request an additional $795,000 (US $794,019) 2011 budgetary allotment to boost infectious disease prevention and control.
Councilor Diane Holmes, chair of the public health group, considers the requested increase "minimal" but a good first step. "It's such a tiny amount of money when you look at the health problems that we have, such as communicable diseases, brain injuries, suicides. We're asking for a very little amount of money, but at least we're getting started on all those issues," said Holmes.