Jenny Diep, Health Promotion Specialist, Infectious Disease Prevention
Sexually Transmitted and Blood-Borne Infections in Windsor and Essex County
Sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBIs) may be contracted through sexual contact with an infected partner, transmitted from mother to baby in utero and/or during birth, or by contact with an infected person’s blood such as sharing of needles to inject drugs. The WECHU receives and investigates all positive laboratory confirmed reports of STBBIs) in Windsor and Essex County (WEC). These include Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome/Human immunodeficiency Virus (AIDS/HIV), chlamydia, gonorrhoea, hepatitis B and C, and syphilis.
In the WECHU’s recently released Community Needs Assessment 2019 Update, STBBIs accounted for the majority (59.3%) of reportable diseases in WEC. The most commonly reported disease is chlamydia, a sexually transmitted infection. While rates of chlamydial infections (214.4 cases per 100,000 residents) and gonorrhoea (45.6 cases per 100,000 residents) are significantly lower than Ontario, the rate of hepatitis C cases (48.3 cases per 100,000 residents) are significantly higher than the rest of Ontario.
Health Care Provider Outreach
Collaboration between public health and primary care is necessary to promoting a supportive environment for healthy sexuality. It reduces stigma, increases awareness and accessibility to health promotion resources and quality care which contributes to overall population health outcomes. Locally, health care providers vary in their comfort and capacity to test and treat for STBBIs. A needs assessment conducted in 2018 found:
- Almost all health care providers screen for STBBIs, but slightly fewer provide treatment for STIs. Few provide specialized services related to infertility, HIV care, and sexual assault care.
- Overall, health care providers were comfortable with discussing sexual health issues, including various population groups. However, fewer were comfortable speaking with those who identify as LGBT+, individuals who misuse drugs, and sex workers.
- Overall, the majority of respondents rated their knowledge regarding diagnosis and treatment of various sexual health issues as very high, in particular, with more commonly treated sexual health issues. However, fewer felt confident in their knowledge/ability to diagnose and treat hepatitis B, C, D, and E, syphilis, and AIDS/HIV and referred to other health care professionals.
In an ongoing effort to support area health care providers in the diagnosis and treatment of STBBIs, the WECHU is implementing an outreach strategy. Our outreach strategy consists of various activities, such as sending current information and updates regarding STBBIs and other priority health topics, through mail, fax, and the WECHU website, and educational outreach visits to health care providers who provide services to priority populations. Additionally, our Medical Officer of Health is available for individual consultation regarding specific health care issues.
Public Awareness Campaign
The WECHU will support a number of public awareness activities beginning in September 2019, to raise awareness of the burden of STBBIs in WEC and to encourage individuals to get tested for STBBIs. This will include a radio segment, media release, and advertisements through various social media networks.