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Removing the stigma: CDC wants you to talk about sex as STIs continue to surge in B.C.

Social changes, increases testing all contribute to higher STI rates

B.C.’s health officials are warning people to stay protected during sex, as sexually transmitted infection rates continue to rise.

The warning comes on World Sexual Health Day as rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis surge in B.C.

”The trend seeing in B.C. is similar to other provinces and other countries,” said Mark Gilbert, the medical director of clinical prevention services at the BC Centre for Disease Control.

“There’s several reasons and they’re hard to disentangle.”

Gilbert said some of the increase in STI rates comes from changes in sexual behaviours, such as the rise of online dating.

Chlamydia is the most common STI in B.C., according to the CDC, and rose three per cent from 2016 to 2017, up to 15,646 cases. Women are 1.5 times more likely to get diagnosed with chlamydia than men.

Gonorrhea has shot up in recent years, with 3,281 cases in 2017. Rates have been climbing since 2005, but the province saw a 70-per-cent diagnosis increase from 2014 to 2015 alone. Men are more likely than women to get diagnosed, possibly because they get more urgent symptoms.

Infectious syphilis has gone up since 2010, but figures show the rate of increase might be slowing. In 2017, there were 685 cases reported, a 10-per-cent drop. Both syphilis and gonorrhea have higher rates among gay and bisexual men.

Gilbert said another reason behind higher STI rates is likely an increase in testing, especially for infections that don’t show symptoms.

The decrease of HIV, as well as better treatments that mean the disease is no longer a death sentence, he said, may mean people are less scared of unprotected sex, but the stigma related to STIs is still a problem.

The CDC recommends getting tested regularly, speaking to a health professional and your partners about protection and STIs, and always using protection.

READ MORE: Teens who take birth control face increased risk of depression as adults: B.C. study

READ MORE: New genetic links to same-sex sexuality found in huge U.S. study


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