Xtra (Canada) (02.05.13)
Chlamydia is now the number one reported sexually transmitted infection (STI) in Ottawa, Canada; rates have been steadily increasing for three years. To stop the increase in reported cases, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has reintroduced an anonymous bathhouse testing project to try to curtail the extent of this sometimes-silent bacterial infection in the gay community. Males frequenting Club Ottawa and Steamworks can anonymously take a survey and provide contact information and a urine sample for an STI test. Dr. Patrick O’Byrne of the University of Ottawa developed the self-directed bathhouse testing project in 2007 with Rick Dias of OPH’s Sexual Health Centers, declaring that if an individual does not want to visit a clinician, the bathhouse is an option.
Throughout the past 10 years, chlamydia diagnoses have steadily risen in Ontario, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia. Chlamydia accounted for 82.1 percent of all reported STIs in Ottawa and 63 percent in Toronto in 2012. OPH reports that it recorded 1,618 cases of chlamydia on average per year, from 2005 to 2009. That number rose to 2,314 cases in 2010. Dr. Vera Etches, the City of Ottawa’s associate medical officer of health, says it is impossible to know the precise number of chlamydia cases in Ottawa’s gay men, because the sexual orientation of a person tested at a sexual health clinic is not recorded unless that person tests positive for HIV. Though the transmission rate in the gay community may be difficult to determine, O’Byrne felt that the need to reintroduce bathhouse testing was crucial. Andrew Brett, communications director for the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT), says that even though chlamydia is mainly transmitted among heterosexuals, the rise of chlamydia concerns ACT because any STI makes an individual more susceptible to HIV infection and vice versa.