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Sexual, reproductive health being pushed

Feb. 12-19 is National Sexual and Reproductive Health Week and the Northwestern Health Unit is using it to promote testing for sexually-transmitted infections (STIs).

“Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the two most common reportable STIs in our region,” said Gillian Lunny, manager of the sexual health program.

“Our rates for the Northwestern Health Unit region are roughly three-four times the provincial average,” she noted.

“In 2011, 676 cases of chlamydia and 131 cases of gonorrhea were reported for the NHU catchment area.”

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are bacterial infections that are spread through having unprotected sex with an infected partner.

Most people will have no signs or symptoms, but these STIs can lead to serious side effects when left untreated.

Testing is easy. A simple urine test can give a person their result in a matter of days.

These infections also are treatable with antibiotics that are offered free from the Northwestern Health Unit’s sexual health program.

One way the sexual health program is promoting STI testing in the region is by distributing “locker swag” to all public high school students.

The swag includes a choice of magnetized mirrors or dry erase boards with the program’s slogan “Positive? Me?” to promote testing.

Social media also is being used to reach the target group.

“Our largest number of cases is found in the 15- to 24-year-old range,” said Lunny.

“Social media is a really effective method of getting information to this group.

“We’re really excited about this campaign,” Lunny added.

Lunny also said that when individuals come for testing, public health nurses will take the chance to talk about other important sexual health issues.

“We do a lot of education with our clients on many topics, such as safer sex, contraception, and healthy relationships,” she explained.

“When someone comes for testing, they are given a lot of support and are offered many different services provided by the Northwestern Health Unit.”

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