Between 1990 and 2006, new chlamydia diagnoses increased by approximately 86 percent in the Peel Region, health officials said during a recent presentation to the Regional Council. The sexually transmitted infection is highest among female teens and persons ages 15-29, Peel Health officials said. The spike could be due to advances in testing that made detection easier for health professionals, said Adele Lane, Peel's manager for the Healthy Sexuality Program.

"The rise in chlamydia is a concern," Lane said. "Chlamydia can become pretty serious if it's not treated and can lead to infertility in both men and women."

The STD's growth in Peel mirrors a rise in many areas across Canada, especially in large urban centers, Lane said.

A lack of STD awareness among youth leaves them susceptible to HIV and other diseases, officials said. A 2004 survey of Peel high school students found 21 percent of 12th graders used the withdrawal method of birth control, and 34 percent reported three or more sexual partners. Among those who were sexually active, condom use was reported by 64 percent of ninth-graders, 75 percent of 10th-graders, 80 percent of 11th-graders, and 78 percent of 12th-graders.

Peel Health has a comprehensive sexuality program it offers residents, and it plays a supportive role for sex education efforts in public schools, Lane said.

"We're definitely hoping to get the message out that testing is easy and free and that we offer free antibiotics at our Peel health clinics," Lane said. "Sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea are treatable."