North

Sexually-transmitted infections on the rise in N.W.T.'s Tlicho region

Since 2011, STI rates have been rising in the Tlicho communities, as well as Lutselk'e, Dettah and Ndilo, according to a GNWT report.

STI rates climbing since 2011 low following syphilis prevention campaign

STI rates have been rising in the Tlicho communities, as well as Lutselk'e, Dettah and Ndilo, to about 70 cases per 1,000 in 2014 from 40 cases per 1,000 in 2011.

After several years of improving rates, sexually-transmitted infections are again on the rise in some N.W.T. communities.

Each year the territorial government measures the well being of people who live close to the diamond mines. The report for 2014 was released in March.

It shows that STI rates have been rising in the Tlicho communities, as well as Lutselk'e, Dettah and Ndilo, to about 70 cases per 1,000 in 2014 from 40 cases per 1,000 in 2011.

In 2008, during a syphilis outbreak, the number of STI cases spiked in those communities at a rate of about 100 per 1,000 people. The Department of Health and Social Services says education efforts helped bring those numbers down.

"There was a lot of new efforts at promoting healthy sexuality and safe sexuality at that time that seemed to have a bit of an impact, around syphilis primarily, because it has a lot of dire consequences," says Dr. Andre Corriveau, N.W.T.'s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Message needs refreshing

He says the impact of those campaigns seems to be lessening with time and the message needs refreshing.

"One of the things we need to look at it is how do we reach the new cohort of young people that are engaging in unsafe sex."

He says the health department is looking at additional social marketing to the smaller communities "on what healthy sexuality is all about and what are the impacts of not paying attention to this issue."

As for why the STI rates are higher in the smaller N.W.T. communities, he says it's not clear if mining development is affecting the rates.

Corriveau says rates are related to the level of sexual activity that is taking place.

Factors at play

"There's probably more than one factor. We know that it's strongly associated to addictions and binge drinking. People may, when they're drunk, some of those safeguards disappear and they make decisions that are not wise, whether it's sexual activity, or drinking and driving, or other risky behaviour.

"We know that there's certainly a problem with sexual abuse going on in our communities as well. We need to be able to talk about that as a factor that contributes to it as well."

Corriveau says chlamydia and gonorrhea are the most common kinds of STIs. When left untreated, STIs can have long-term health impacts.

He says while the territory's rate of STIs is higher than the Canadian average, national rates are also increasing.

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