Hamilton’s STI (sexually transmitted infections) report card is in, and there’s some good news and some bad news.
First the good news: Hamilton saw its lowest number of new HIV cases in two decades last year at 16.
All but one of those cases were found in men, and 10 of those were men between the ages of 40-59.
“We hope it’s because we have better education out there,” said Julie Emili, an associate medical officer of health with the city. “Though we’ve never had tons of HIV cases.”
Emili told CBC Hamilton that overall, HIV rates have been dropping provincially for a decade. There were 843 total cases of HIV found in the province in 2012, and 353 in the first quarter of this year.
'Social media is affecting how people meet and casual relationships.' - Julie Emili, associate medical officer of health
But while HIV rates are heading in the right direction, chlamydia rates are on the rise. It’s the most common reportable STI in Hamilton, and rates have been going up for the last 15 years. Infections have risen sharply in the last five years especially, Emili says.
There were 1622 reports of chlamydia in Hamilton in 2012, public health statistics show.
“It’s by and large our most common STI,” Emili said.
There are a few reasons public health points to as to why the rate is spiking. One is the expected: some age groups (largely teens) aren’t using condoms as much as they once did. “Teenagers in general don’t think one or two steps ahead,” Emili said, adding that young people tend to make up a large portion of new chlamydia cases.
But would you have guessed divorcees make up a big chunk of new Chlamydia cases, too? Emili says that once-married people who are getting back into the dating scene are less prone to reach for a condom, leading to higher infection rates.
Then there’s the internet. Emili says online connections are “bringing people together” more than ever.
“Social media is affecting how people meet and casual relationships,” she said. More casual relationships would bolster infection rates, she argued.
Syphilis is on the rise in Hamilton, too. About 28 cases of syphilis were recorded in 2012, up about 60 per cent over the year before. And the city is on track to exceed last year’s total, recording 18 new cases in the first half of 2013.
Gonorrhea, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C rates stayed relatively stable in 2012.