EDMONTON – The Alberta government says anonymous hook-ups arranged on social media are the major reason for a dramatic spike in sexually transmitted infections in the province.
Cases of gonorrhea last year were up 80 per cent from 2014 and are the highest since the late 1980s.
The number of cases of infectious syphilis doubled in 2015 from 2014.
Dr. Karen Grimsrud, chief medical officer of health, says social media tools are helping people communicate quickly to arrange anonymous sexual encounters.
“New social media tools enable people to communicate quickly to arrange anonymous sexual encounters, resulting in increased difficulty in tracking STIs,” she said.
“When people don’t know their sexual partners’ identities, it makes it difficult to contact partners for follow-up testing and treatment.”
Health officials say the province will step up awareness campaigns that focus on the danger of anonymous hook-ups, encourage STI testing and for people to use condoms.
“AHS has and will continue to step up its awareness and outreach efforts to ensure the public, especially at-risk groups, know the risks, know how to protect themselves and know the importance of getting tested for STIs,” Dr. Gerry Predy, AHS Medical Officer of Health, said.
“The effects of untreated STIs can extend to other sexual partners or babies of infected pregnant women. Although many STIs can be treated and cured, if left untreated they can result in serious health impacts and long-term implications.”
Syphilis rates have risen most notably in men who have sex with men and gonorrhea rates have increased in young indigenous females, the province said.
AHS has expanded STI clinic hours in Edmonton and Calgary, increased outreach testing in Edmonton in collaboration with agencies serving those two populations, and reached out to physicians to increase STI testing for clients that are sexually active.
For more information on STIs, visit sexgerms.com.
With files from Emily Mertz, Global News