Sexually transmitted infections are at their highest rates since the early ’90s, and the federal government is trying to combat STIs in Canada’s youth by investing six figures in a new study.
The Canadian Sexual Health Indicators Survey is the first of its kind and will collect data from 18 to 20-year-olds across the country for a national report.
“Increasing our knowledge may allow for the creation of more effective strategies, policies and programs to promote sexual health and to prevent sexually transmitted infections,” said Public Health Agency of Canada spokeswoman Sylwia Gomes.
Since 1997, STIs have risen — especially among 15 to 24-year-olds — and chlamydia is the most commonly reported STI in Canada, followed by gonorrhea.
The majority of reported chlamydia and gonorrhea cases are among Canadians aged 15 to 29, said Gomes, with around 80% of chlamydia cases and 70% of gonorrhea cases in the 18 to 20 group.
Ottawa has the highest rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV and syphilis in Ontario, according to an Ottawa Public Health report released two months ago.
In 2010, there were 2,926 cases of reportable STIs in Ottawa and 80% of them were chlamydia.
OPH is launching a campaign to dramatically increase condom distribution and use.
The average age to have sexual intercourse for the first time is between 16 and 18, according to Statistics Canada.
Collecting data on the sexual health of 18-to-20-year-olds, who are over that age, is “the first step in increasing our understanding of the factors related to increasing rates of sexually transmitted infections among youth,” said Gomes.
A call for tenders is underway to assemble an academic research team, who will survey at least 9,000 young people from coast to coast.
A pilot project was conducted from 2008 to 2010 to define and validate the survey.
The new survey follows the World Health Organization’s definition of sexual health and will include one’s physical, mental, emotional and social well-being; approaches to sexuality and relationships; access to education and services; use of contraception and barrier protection; and sexual experiences, including violence, coercion, and homophobic bullying.
“This data will provide a baseline for youth aged 18 to 20 years and an opportunity for re-surveying this age group in the future in order to evaluate programmatic and policy responses,” said Gomes.
It is expected to begin in March with a completion date of February 2014.