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Understanding the rise in sexually transmitted infections in Simcoe Muskoka

Despite a noticeable rise in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) across Simcoe County and Muskoka, health experts say there may be a simple explanation that doesn't require sounding the alarm.

"I think there are more and more people who are getting tested. So the more you get tested, the more you're going to uncover those infections that do not have symptoms," says the Associate Medical Officer of Health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU), Dr. Colin Lee.

Chlamydia exposure has steadily risen in the region since the early 2000s, and cases of gonorrhea per year have nearly tripled since 2017, while the number of syphilis cases increased nine-fold.

Health experts believe the changing social climate is a significant factor.

"People are meeting each other more easily online and are hooking up more easily, I think," says Lee.

Medical experts are encouraging sexually active people to take advantage of free testing at local clinics, especially when between partners.

"There's a certain percentage of people who won't have symptoms and may never have symptoms. For instance, chlamydia, gonorrhea, it could be up to 30 per cent of the population," adds Lee.

The highest infection rate is seen in those between 15 and 24, with permanent partners less likely in high schools and post-secondary campuses.

"And particularly in women. Now it's more particularly in women just because, for some reason, they are more susceptible. Their cervix is more susceptible to being infected. It's not because they're having more partners than males," Lee explains.

Most STI tests require a simple urine sample, and the serious consequences of not getting tested, especially when symptom-free, only emphasize the importance.

"It's really important for them to get tested periodically, especially when they're changing partners because if untreated, it can lead to obviously a lot of pain like pelvic inflammatory disease but also infertility as well," cautions Lee.

Officials with Georgian College say they're in the early stages of starting potential pilot programming with SMDHU's sexual health services which will see public health bolster their support and physical presence on some of their campuses. Top Stories

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