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Northern Saskatchewan combatting rise in sexually-transmitted infections |


Northern communities in Saskatchewan are seeing a spike in sexually-transmitted infections (STIs)like chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Nnamdi Ndubuka, medical health officer with Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority, said there was an 87 per cent increase in gonorrhea between 2020 and 2022, and a 25 per jump in chlamydia between 2021 and 2022.

He said there’s a wide variety of reasons for the increase in sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections.

Poverty, the impacts of residential schools, systemic racism and the lack of access to quality health-care in the northern part of the province all factor into the increased numbers, Ndubuka said.

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He said people having unprotected sex and having multiple partners increase their exposure to gonorrhea, chlamydia and other STIs.

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Ndubuka noted they are working on a number of initiatives to combat this rise in infections.

“Number one is increasing education and awareness about the nature of the disease and how it could be acquired or transmitted,” Nbuduka said.

They’ve been working with partners like the Prince Albert Grand Council to build targeted messaging for the population through mediums like social media and radio stations to educate the public.

Training and education are also being offered to health-care providers.

“Not just only (to) screen or do symptom inquiry, but also offer treatment in a timely fashion.”

Ndubuka said they are trying to increase access to testing for these infections as well, noting that could help prevent further spread.

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He said they are facing challenges, noting the number of cases they are seeing doesn’t balance out with the number of staff available to do the work needed to combat this.

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“For each case that’s reported, there is a need for contact tracing investigation to be conducted in a very meticulous way, and that requires work.”

He said it can also be tough to track down patients, saying they can often move around from place to place.

The World Health Organization noted that sexually transmitted infections are on the rise globally, adding that some strains of gonorrhea are highly resistant to some treatments, and cases are being found in countries like Canada, Australia and Denmark.

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Saskatchewan’s health ministry gave some statistics regarding sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections across the province, noting the numbers were estimates based on preliminary data:

  • There were 6,445 cases of chlamydia in 2022 and as of March 31, 2023, there have been 1,770 cases.
  • There were 2,784 gonococcal infections in 2022 and 607 so far in 2023.
  • Looking at infectious syphilis, there were 2,059 cases in 2022 and 443 so far this year.
  • HIV, based on the diagnosis year, had 223 cases in 2022 and 68 so far in 2023.

And Hepatitis C, based on the reported year, had 424 cases in 2022 and 108 in 2023 as of March 31.

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