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STIs increased in Waterloo region in 2017

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The number of people who were infected by sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) in Waterloo region rose dramatically in 2017 from a year earlier, according to a report recently prepared by Waterloo Public Health.

There were 370 cases of gonorrhea reported in the area in 2017, well above the 234 cases reported in the prior year.

The rates of gonorrhea in the Waterloo rose above provincial averages for the first time in recent years in 2017.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, the highest rates of gonorrhea were reported among 20- to 24-year olds, followed by those between the ages of 25 and 29. Men were generally infected more than women aside from those infected in the 15- to 19-year-old category.

One reason that Waterloo region could be experiencing such a spike in those infected with STDs is the presence of three post-secondary institutions, according to Jesse Johal, manager of sexual health for Waterloo Public Health, said.

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“You’re going to see peaks like this where there is a larger population of people between the ages of 20 and 24,” she explained.

“We usually ask for risk factors as to why (people are infected),” she said. Johal pointed out that common reasons were lack of condom use and multiple partners.

She said that a lot of people are stating that they don’t want to use condoms — a sort of “condom fatigue.”

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Johal said that while many people aren’t worried because the infections are treatable, there “have been cases globally which have been resistant to the anti-virus.”

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The rates of chlamydia have been rising across the region and province for over a decade and that trend continued in 2017.

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There were 1,760 cases reported in 2017 compared with 1,583 cases reported in 2016. The rates reported in Waterloo region fall below the rates reported through the province.

Similar to gonorrhea, the group most affected by chlamydia were those between the ages of 20 and 24. Unlike gonorrhea, this was followed by 15- to 19-year-olds and more women were infected than men.

Johal said Waterloo, along with the local universities and college, are currently investigating the reasons why the numbers are on the rise before they formulate a plan to combat the issue.

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“We’re looking to better understand the youth so we can come up with a better solution,” she explained, noting that there have not been proper discussions with the post-high school population to understand their attitudes toward unprotected sex.

“We have not really spoken to this group to find out why they are not using condoms or having unprotected sex,” she explained.

Johal said she has talked with counterparts in other regions about the issue and has been keeping an eye on various studies on STIs, but the most important component to solving the problem is people.

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