Remember the height of the AIDS scare, when people were basically bombarded with the message of “wear a condom or die?”
Today’s young adults don’t.
That may be factor in the gradually increasing rate of sexually transmitted infections on Vancouver Island and it certainly is playing a part in a new promotion being launched by Island Health.
“For me, the emphasis is to promote it for our youth populations, and for people to start thinking about (testing) as part of their regular health care,” Vancouver Island medical health officer Dee Hoyano said.
Between 2005 and 2014, chlamydia — the most common of the diseases being tested for — has risen from 216 cases per 100,000 people to 288 per 100,000. Cases in the south and central Island roughly mirror those numbers, while on the north Island they are a little higher.
Other sexually transmitted infections are less common, but also seem to be on the upswing. Hoyano points to two factors.
“Our tests have gotten better, so when we do test, we pick up more; and changes in sexual behaviour, particularly around safer sex practices like using a condom,” she said.
As part of its emphasis on increased testing, the health authority has launched getcheckedonline.com a new service that allows you to get tested for chlamydia, hepatitis C, syphilis, gonorrhoea and HIV without ever having to visit a doctor’s office.
Island residents can create an account through the website, take a quiz on their sexual history, print a laboratory requisition form, then get tested at a participating LifeLabs outlet.
Negative results will lead to an online notification. Positive or inconclusive results will lead to a call from a nurse to arrange treatment.
Health officials hope the increased privacy the program offers will combine with youth culture’s comfort online to result in more people getting tested.
The program is primarily being offered to residents of Victoria, Langford and Duncan because that is where the participating labs are.
However, Hoyano said residents of communities further up-Island are also welcome to participate if they don’t mind making the drive.
She is hopeful the service can be expanded fully into other Island communities, if the numbers of this initial program seem to warrant it.
Public health officials recommend B.C. residents get tested for HIV once every five years, regardless of their behaviour. People are told to consider testing for the other diseases based on factors like new sexual partners, or signs and symptoms.
“It’s kind of what makes sense of the individual,” Hoyano said. “Some who are potentially at higher risk might want to do more.”
A similar pilot program was launched in Vancouver focused on men who have sex with men. Visit the website for more information.