Alberta is witnessing what can only be classified as a worrisome increase in the number of province-wide cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
In 2015, some 3,400 cases of gonorrhoea were reported in the province, an 80 percent year over year increase. More worrisome, with 350 cases reported in 2015, is the rise in cases of syphilis which more than doubled over the previous year’s mark.
The province’s chief medical officer says social media is mostly to blame for the rise in STIs (read: casual dating apps like Tinder, Bumble and Grindr).
“New social media tools enable people to communicate quickly to arrange anonymous sexual encounters, resulting in increased difficulty in tracking STIs,” said Dr. Karen Grimsrud in an interview with the Calgary Herald. “When people don’t know their sexual partners’ identities, it makes it difficult to contact partners for follow-up testing and treatment.”
To put those numbers in perspective, Alberta hasn’t seen this many STI cases since the 1980s.
Edmonton, in particular, has been something of a hotbed for the province’s rise in STI cases. The city recorded a gonorrhoea infection rate of 133.9 infections per 100,000 residents in 2015. That’s more than double the city’s 2014 57.3 per 100,000 infection rate. Even more dramatic was the rise in syphilis cases. Syphilis infection rates rose from 3.4 in 2014 to a staggering 14.1 in 2015, a rate that’s almost double compared to the one in Calgary.
Many of the cases have involved a disproportionate number of women, particularly those of indigenous decent, as well as gay and bi-sexual men. Infections among men who have sex with men, for instance, jumped to a rate 11 times higher than the provincial rate for all men.
Alberta’s previous STI action plan, enacted five years, is set to expire this year. Alberta Health Services is in the process of developing a plan on how to fight climbing infection rates, though says any new plan will involve helping at-risk communities.