Sex and sexuality are important aspects of health and the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) reminds the public that it is essential to protect yourself against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and get tested if you are sexually active or think you may have one.
From 2019 to 2021, the health unit saw a significant increase in STIs in Simcoe Muskoka, including a four to five time increase in the annual number of reported cases of syphilis. Prior to 2019, the number of cases of syphilis in the region averaged less than 10 cases per year but rose to 50 cases in 2021. Meanwhile the number of cases of gonorrhea reported annually also grew from 120 in 2020 to 265 in 2021.
“The increasing cases of STIs is a disturbing trend that we are seeing not only locally, but across the province as well. It is important to keep in mind that access to health care during the pandemic has been limited and the number of cases may be higher than we realize,” says SMDHU Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Colin Lee. “Many STIs can go undiagnosed as people don’t always show symptoms or people don’t recognize that the symptom is due to an STI and the only way to know is to get tested.”
The health unit strongly encourages anyone who is sexually active, had a new partner or multiple partners in the last two years, engaged in unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex, or has symptoms of an STI to contact their health-care provider, a walk-in clinic or the Gilbert Centre InclusHIV Care clinic at 705-790-6748 to ask about STI testing.
Testing for STIs can include a urine test for chlamydia and gonorrhea and a blood test for syphilis, HIV, Hepatitis B and C, depending on risk factors. Most STIs can be treated with FREE medication that can be accessed through your health-care provider.
You can reduce the risk of getting an STI by making informed decisions BEFORE having sex, such as limiting your number of sexual partners, talking to your partner and asking them to be tested, using condoms and barriers, and being aware of how alcohol and other drugs can affect sexual decision making.
For more information about STI symptoms, how the infection spreads, who is at risk, testing and treatment, visit smdhu.org or call 705-721-7520 and press #3 to speak with a Sexual Health Public Health Nurse.
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