Niagara Region Public Health has concerns about the growing number of cases of these sexual infections. Last year for 2018, in total, Niagara had 1,645 positive tests for chlamydia and 297 cases of gonorrhea. As of this September 2019, already there have been 1,055 cases of chlamydia and 252 cases of gonorrhea with three more months left in the year. These early numbers tell Kelly Petch, the sexual health supervisor at the Niagara Region Public Health, that the numbers will be higher than last year.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are passed through unprotected sex, which does not need to include penetrative intercourse. These infections not only spread to other people, but can produce painful symptoms and lasting complications. Symptoms include discharge from the penis, a burning sensation when urinating, pain and/or bleeding during intercourse and abnormal discharge. If STIs are left untreated, women can have a higher chance of fertility issues due to scarring of the reproductive organs. Another effect of longer term infection is pelvic inflammatory disease which is very painful and may require hospitalization for longer term antibiotics.
According to Julie Fennell, health promotion educator at Brock, “80% of people with an STI do not have any symptoms.”
The best thing to do is to get tested regularly. At Brock there will be drop in testing at The Hub, TH134, every Wednesday and Thursday from 12:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. starting September 18, 2019. They provide both blood and urine testing with a public health nurse. The results are ready within a week, and contact is made through a chosen method of communication. If it is needed, they can provide treatment. This is a great place to stock up on condoms as well to help prevent STIs.
Students can also make an appointment with Student Health Services to get tested.
If leaving campus for sexual health matters is a better option there are clinics in the Niagara Region like the Sexual Health Clinics. They can provide low cost birth control, condoms, the morning after pill, STI testing and treatment free of cost. Visit niagararegion.ca and search sexual health centres for locations and hours.
The good news is that these two STIs, gonorrhea and chlamydia, are curable through antibiotics and there are a variety of locations that do testing and treatment for STIs. The bad news is that other infections that are viral like HIV and herpes are not curable but are treatable. What does this mean for a sexually active person?
It means that it is important to know about and advocate for your own sexual health.
Brock takes an active role in ways to inform you of sexual health. Fennell and her team of peer mentors are working hard to bring programs to educate and reduce the stigma around the four major sexual topics: consent, contraceptives, STIs and healthy relationships.
They run programs at different times of the year. Currently, they are discussing consent for approximately another week. Discussion concerning contraceptives will follow until Reading Week and then STI education programs will run until the beginning of November. Finally, the topic of healthy relationships will be offered until the beginning of December. To find out more information on events follow their social media @brockswac. Students can message them directly with questions and they will provide the most up to date information on sexual health.
Further recommendations from The Hub at Brock and Niagara Region Public Health include:
1) Use protection
2) Get tested for STIs
3) If you are engaging in unprotected sex get tested at least every six months
4) Have conversations about when you were last tested with every partner to ensure you are not exposing, or being exposed to, an STI.
Statistics show males get tested less than women. Men tend to have fewer symptoms so it is essential to test regularly.
Know what is best for you in terms of contraceptives. Get educated. Know where you can get resources, protection and help.
Watch for their big event Pee for Pizza which will be held on November 5, 2019. Get tested, get some pizza, ask any questions and get sexually healthy.
The sexual health team can not stress enough that getting tested and any questions you may have is completely confidential.
“It is important to know that the conversations students have with their health professionals are 100% confidential. It does not go outside of that relationship,” said Fennell.
The team works hard to keep social media current @brockswac. Visit The Hub in TH 134, contact Health Services or visit Niagara sexual health centres for more information.