New Brunswick health officials are concerned that the number of reported cases of chlamydia among young people in the province has been increasing by about 10 per cent a year over the past few years.
The most recent figures show about 1,500 New Brunswickers between the ages of 15 and 29 have the disease, Dr. Paul Van Buynder, the province's deputy chief medical officer of health, said Tuesday.
"Our rates are highest in the three university cities in New Brunswick, and they're highest in the 20 to 24 [age] group. They're just not listening, and it's a personal tragedy for a lot of them," Van Buynder said.
The rates of chlamydia — the most common sexually transmitted sexual disease — and other sexually transmitted diseases in people between the ages of 15 and 29 are continuing to climb every year, he said.
Chlamydia presents no symptoms in young women, Van Buynder said, but there is a simple test that is available from family doctors or clinics.
Stacey Taylor, a nurse practitioner in Fredericton, said if chlamydia goes untreated, the results can be devastating.
"It can go on to cause infertility in their later years, and maybe young people don't think about that right now because they're not trying to conceive. But, later on, it can have a huge impact on their lives and relationships," Taylor said.
Van Buynder said young people have to listen to the safe sex message and use a condom to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
In the past , the health department has undertaken campaigns at bars passing out condoms, but Van Buynder said it seems the message still isn't getting through.
Taylor said the best way to protect yourself is by abstaining from sex. Otherwise, she said, people should use a condom.
"They should be going for regular pap smears, and for testing for sexually transmitted infections, as well," she said.
Van Buynder plans to ramp up the safe sex campaigns in schools, especially at the universities in Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John.