Horizon Health released a statement on Sept. 14 that said there has been an increase in HIV and gonorrhea cases in New Brunswick. Horizon reminded residents of the importance of being tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and sexually transmitted blood-borne infections (STBBIs).
There have been 16 new cases of HIV reported since January, which is more cases of HIV than public health expected in a year. According to Horizon Health, this outbreak of HIV resulted in a 175 per cent increase in provincial HIV cases. 69 per cent of the total reports were from the Fredericton and Oromocto area.
Dr. Na-Koshie Lamptey, the regional medical officer of health from the Department of Health, said the driving force behind this increase is still unknown.
“Many of the cases are due to people who have chronic infections, but there has also been newly acquired infections as well from local exposures,” said Lamptey.
Lamptey said that while the average age of an HIV-affected person is 33, these cases range from ages as low as 20.
Lucia O’Sullivan, professor and director of the Experimental Psychology program at UNB, touched on the importance of condom use to reduce the risk of STIs and STBBIs.
“Condom use remains fairly inconsistent…which helps in part to account for the infection rate increases we are seeing,” said O’Sullivan.
For condom use to be an adequate prevention method against STIs and STBBIs, “condoms have to be used each time, for the whole time (from start to finish), and used without errors,” said O’Sullivan.
Young people especially are prone to improper condom use and this may result in condom use becoming an inadequate prevention method of STIs and STBBIs.
“Using it late in the sexual interaction...not leaving space at the tip which can lead to breakage, rolling the condom inside out and then flipping it over and continuing its use, not checking for damage or deterioration,” O’Sullivan said were some of the improper uses.
The UNB Student Health Centre is taking action and urging sexually active students and those engaging in risky sexual behaviour to get tested for STIs and STBBIs.
Stacey Taylor, a nurse practitioner at the UNB Student Health Centre, said the Student Health Centre will be partnering with Public Health to ensure accurate information is given to students and the public in a timely matter.
The UNB Student Health Centre and Public Health will be providing education “to promote safer sexual health practices,” said Taylor.
The UNB Student Health Centre offers free testing for STIs and STBBIs for all full-time UNB students.