Halifax sees spike in chlamydia rate

CDHA launches awareness campaign targeting females aged 15 to 24.

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Free condoms at the SMU student health centre.

A new campaign by Capital District Health Authority is aiming to raise awareness about chlamydia.

The campaign follows recent numbers reported by CDHA on the high rates of chlamydia in Halifax. The rate is close to 30 times the national average.

According to the CDHA website, chlamydia is the most commonly reported STI in young men and women aged 15 to 24.

Campaign timing

Cindy Bayers with Pebble Communications, worked on the campaign for CDHA as a consultant. She says the campaign wasn't brought on only by the high numbers, but also by the new testing method for women that CDHA has introduced.

Women can now perform their own vaginal swab at the clinic or doctor's office. This replaces the former method that was similar to a pap test.

"An opportunity presented itself," Bayers says.

She says promoting the new, less-invasive testing method along with the awareness campaign was perfect timing.

Bayers says the campaign is directed at girls and women aged 15 to 24, the most affected group.

Awareness on campus

Posters are a pivotal part of the campaign. The posters show images of young women and offer eye-opening stats, such as 70 per cent of women who have chlamydia don't show any symptoms at all.

Bayers says the posters are being sent to all university health centres.

Derrick Enslow, a health promotion manager at Dalhousie University says they are awaiting the new posters for the chlamydia campaign. They are looking forward to working with CDHA to implement the campaign on campus.

"We run many awareness campaigns around sexual health throughout the year," Enslow says. These campaigns include workshops, posters and interactive awareness booths, he says. During frosh week, all new students attend a sex talk.

"We also distribute condoms on campus - 7,000 condoms since September 2011," Enslow adds.

Do the numbers on campus match?

Click to Enlarge Notes: *Incidence rates from Statistics Canada. (Source: Statistics Canada. (2011). Reported cases and rates of chlamydia by age group and sex, 1991 to 2009. Retrieved from http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/std-mts/sti-its_tab/chlamydia-eng.php) **2010 chlamydia cases based on CDHA PHU CDC Caseload. The denominator for rate calculations is based on population estimates provided by Nova Scotia Community Counts **

Jane Collins, manager and nurse at the Saint Mary's University student health centre, says she hasn't seen a corresponding spike in the number of chlamydia cases at the centre.

"We treat chlamydia about twice a week. That hasn't changed," Collins says.

The SMU centre always tests women for both gonorrhoea and chlamydia when they have their pap tests. Collins says they've picked up many cases of the infection that way, since most women show no symptoms.

Collins says the new self-swabbing method is easy, and should have a positive impact on the amount of women being tested. She says men can be tested for chlamydia with a urine sample.

Collins says students on SMU campus seem "very conscience of getting tested."

Clinic manager at Dalhousie, Barbara Vye, says they don't collect data that could be used to indicate the numbers of cases of chlamydia.

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