Health unit reports dramatic increase in sexually transmitted infections

It’s ‘a disturbing trend that we’re seeing not just locally, but across the province,’ says local health unit official

Sex and sexuality are important aspects of health and the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) reminds the public that it is essential to protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and to get tested if you are sexually active or think you might have one.

From 2019 to 2021, the health unit has seen a significant increase in STIs in Simcoe-Muskoka, including a four- to five-fold increase in the annual number of reported syphilis cases. Prior to 2019, the number of syphilis cases in the region averaged less than 10 cases per year, but increased to 50 cases in 2021. Meanwhile, the number of gonorrhea cases reported annually also increased from 120 in 2020 to 265 in 2021.

“The increase in STI cases is a concerning trend that we are not only seeing locally, but also across the province. It is important to keep in mind that access to health care during the pandemic has been limited and the number of cases may be higher than we think,” says SMDHU Associate Medical Officer of Health, Dr Colin Lee. “Many STIs can go undiagnosed because people don’t always have symptoms or recognize that the symptom is due to an STI and the only way to find out is to get tested.”

The health unit strongly encourages anyone who is sexually active, has had a new partner or multiple partners in the past two years, has had unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex, or has symptoms of an STI to contact her health care provider, a walk-in clinic or the Gilbert Center InclusHIV Care clinic at 705-790-6748 to ask about STI testing.

Screening for STIs may include a urine test for chlamydia and gonorrhea and a blood test for syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B and C, depending on risk factors. Most STIs can be treated with free medications available through your health care provider.

You can reduce your risk of getting an STI by making informed decisions before you have sex, such as limiting your number of sexual partners, talking to your partner and asking them to get tested, using condoms and barriers, and be aware of how alcohol and other drugs can affect sexual decision-making.

For more information on STI symptoms, how the infection is spread, who is at risk, testing and treatment, visit or call 705-721-7520 and press #3 to speak to a sexual health public health nurse.


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