By Jami Neufeld, STI Testing Nurse
This last year we have been really thinking about how to promote regular STI testing because STI testing and treatment prevents or stops the spread of infections. Here’s a short update about what’s been happening in the province and in the STI Program at Nine Circles:
- In Manitoba, we continue to be in the midst of a syphilis outbreak with the highest rates of the infection in Winnipeg and in Northern Manitoba. Despite the outbreak, WRHA Public Health notes that, for the first time in years, syphilis is declining. Many of the more recent cases are being caught earlier, which helps to decrease the outbreak as people are treated quickly and are no longer infectious.
- In Manitoba, we are also seeing increased rates of gonorrhea. Over 2,000 cases were diagnosed in 2016 and looking at the numbers so far in 2017, we will likely surpass that this year.
- We have certainly spent some time discussing repeat sexually transmitted infections or co-infections, particularly in regards to new Manitoba data that shows that recent STIs (chlamydia and gonorrhea) were 3 and 12 times higher among people who were later diagnosed with HIV than those who were not. [Read More]
- Nine Circles has also been participating in Naloxone distribution since the beginning of this year and we have been thinking about how to promote testing to people who may be using drugs and sharing equipment for injection or smoking.
- We are now offering to get people started on PrEP when they have a care provider who may not be comfortable prescribing PrEP. PrEP is a medication that is taken daily to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV. It requires blood work and STI/HIV testing every 3 months. Anyone who is interested in taking PrEP can make an appointment or walk in to talk with one of our STI nurses.
- Our STI program has been participating in a STI Testers Collaborative group. Nurses from different community health centres who are involved in STI testing get together every 6 months to share information and to collaborate. The goal is to learn from each other and build on each other’s successes. It’s been very energizing to share ideas and information for STI prevention.
- In that spirit, the STI program has initiated an STBBI (Sexually Transmitted or Blood Borne Infection) website for health care providers to be able to share information and to collaborate more broadly via the internet. The website is very small right now, but we hope to build a communication network for STI testers to quickly share information and to be in the know.
- As always, we continue to evaluate our STI program to take a look at what we are doing presently and what we want to be doing as a program in the future.