HIV in Canada: A primer for service providers

 

Reportable Bacterial Sexually Transmitted Infections (Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Syphilis)

Key Points

  • The rate of chlamydia has increased by 13% from 2011 to 2016.
  • The rate of gonorrhea has increased by 87% from 2011 to 2016.
  • The rate of syphilis has increased by 76% from 2011 to 2016.

As in other high-income countries, new diagnoses of STIs are on the rise in Canada. In Canada, the three reportable bacterial STIs are chlamydia, gonorrhea and infectious syphilis.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia can affect the genitals, rectum and throat. It is also known as the silent disease because up to 50% of males and 70% of females do not have symptoms and are unaware of the infection. Even without symptoms, however, chlamydia can lead to serious health problems, especially for women. In females, untreated chlamydia may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and arthritis. Males may develop scarring in the urethra, arthritis and, occasionally, infertility. Screening for chlamydia can be done using a urine test or urethral, throat, cervical and anal swabs. Chlamydia infections can be cured by antibiotics.

Between 2011 and 2016, the rate of new diagnoses of chlamydia, the most common bacterial STI in Canada, increased by 13%. There were 121,244 new chlamydia diagnoses in 2016 resulting in a rate of 334 cases for every 100,000 people in Canada. Almost two-thirds of chlamydia diagnoses were in females (61%) in 2016. The majority of chlamydia diagnoses (56%) were in Canadians aged 15 to 24 in 2016.

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea can affect the genitals, rectum, throat and eyes. Women with gonorrhea are more likely than men to have no symptoms, or their symptoms are likely to be milder. However, transmission of the bacteria can still occur without symptoms and, if not treated, health complications may develop. Complications in females include pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, arthritis and ectopic pregnancies. Males can develop scarring of the urethra, potential infertility, and arthritis. Screening for gonorrhea can be done using a urine test or urethral, throat, cervical and anal swabs. Gonorrhea can be cured by a single dose of an antibiotic, but drug-resistant strains of the bacteria are becoming more prevalent so dual therapy is now recommended.

Between 2011 and 2016, the rate of new gonorrhea diagnoses, the second most common bacterial STI in Canada, increased by 87%. There were 23,708 new gonorrhea diagnoses in 2016 resulting in a rate of 65 cases for every 100,000 people in Canada. Almost two-thirds of gonorrhea diagnoses (64%) were in males in 2016. The majority of gonorrhea diagnoses (57%) were in Canadians aged 15 to 29 in 2016.

Syphilis

Syphilis is a bacterial STI that attacks the body in three stages. Some people develop visible symptoms, such as painless sores and rashes, while others don’t. Symptoms may resolve without treatment, at which point the infection becomes latent. After many years in the latent stage, syphilis may progress into a tertiary infection and cause serious damage to the brain, heart, eyes and bones that can lead to death. Syphilis can be screened through a blood test. If syphilis is caught early, it can be cured by a simple antibiotic treatment.

Between 2011 and 2016, the rate of new infectious syphilis diagnoses increased by 76%. There were 5,369 new infectious syphilis diagnoses in 2016 resulting in a rate of 15 cases for every 100,000 people in Canada. The majority of syphilis diagnoses (86%) were in men in 2016. Almost two-thirds of syphilis diagnoses (64%) were among Canadians aged 30 to 59 in 2016.

Resources

Chlamydia – CATIE/SIECCAN fact sheet

Gonorrhea – CATIE/SIECCAN fact sheet

Syphilis – CATIE fact sheet

Canadian guidelines on sexually transmitted infections – Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)

Global health sector strategy on Sexually Transmitted Infections, 2016-2021– World Health Organization

Sources

  1. Public Health Agency of Canada. Notifiable diseases online. Available from: http://diseases.canada.ca/notifiable/
 
 

 

 

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