British Columbia

Syphilis 'epidemic' sparks campaign in Metro Vancouver

The syphilis rate in Metro Vancouver has reached a 30-year high, prompting a new campaign to eliminate the disease, especially in B.C.'s gay and bisexual communities.

Campaign reaches out to gay and bisexual communities as syphilis rates hit 30-year high

Campaign targets Metro Vancouver's gay and bisexual communities 3:04

The syphilis rate in Metro Vancouver has reached a 30-year high, prompting a new campaign aimed at eliminating the sexually transmitted disease.

Vancouver Coastal Health medical health officer Dr. Reka Gustafson said Monday that syphilis rates are at epidemic proportions, especially in the Lower Mainland's gay and bisexual communities.

The syphilis rate in Metro Vancouver has reached a 30-year high, prompting a new campaign to eliminate the disease. (Vancouver Coastal Health)

In 2012, there were 371 cases reported in B.C., most of those with the highly contagious disease were gay and bisexual men.

Most people who are diagnosed with syphilis have no symptoms. Those who do have symptoms report either a painless sore or rash.

If left untreated, syphilis can lead to blindness, hearing loss, neurological problems and in severe cases can be fatal.

Vancouver Coastal Health launched the campaign to urge people in gay and bisexual communities to get tested regularly and practise safe sex.

'Check Him Out'

The cheeky Internet and poster campaign, called Check Him Out, focuses on Vancouver trends such as French bulldogs, dating apps and syphilis rates at a 30-year high.

Several community agencies work with gay and bisexual men, including Health Initiative for Men, or HIM, and Positive Living B.C.

Jody Jollimore, program manager for Health Initiative for Men, said the campaign educates men in a way that reflects their lives.

"We know that gay and bisexual men care about their sexual health and when given access to appropriate information, [they] make healthier choices," Jollimore said in a news release.

Glen Doupe, an outreach team leader for the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, said people need to get tested regularly because they may have the disease and not know it.

"Syphilis spreads easily through any form of sexual contact so people also need to be more knowledgeable about safe sex practices."

B.C. isn't the only province to see a spike in the number of syphilis cases.

Statistics show that in 2010 there were more than 1,750 cases in Canada, up from the 177 in 1993.


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