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Sexually transmitted infections are more prevalent in youth

(NC) Text this—young people are experiencing the highest rates of some sexually transmitted infections in Canada and passing them on through all forms of unprotected sex, not just intercourse.

Canadian youth may be unaware or are ignoring warnings that many sexually transmitted infections can be prevented by taking precautions such as wearing condoms or avoiding sex with infected partners. As a result, youth and young adults experience high rates of sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea, syphilis, human papillomavirus and especially chlamydia.

After a period of decline, chlamydia rates have risen steadily since 1997. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, more than half of all reported cases of chlamydia, the most common sexually transmitted infection in Canada, are diagnosed in youth aged 15 to 24. In 2010, 80 per cent of all reported chlamydia cases were diagnosed in Canadians under 30.

Many youth take steps to prevent unplanned pregnancies, but may not consider themselves at risk for sexually transmitted infections. Condoms are the only contraceptive that protect individuals from both unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. Many infected individuals have no signs or symptoms and can unknowingly transmit their infections through unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sex.

If left undiagnosed and untreated, these infections can lead to long term consequences for both men and women including pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, arthritis, meningitis or pneumonia and even some cancers. The only way to diagnose infections is to get tested. The good news is that many sexually transmitted infections, including chlamydia, can be treated and cured.

If you or someone you know is concerned about sexually transmitted infections, there are things you can do to take control and keep yourself healthy.

• The best protection against sexually transmitted infections is to avoid sex altogether.

• If you are having sex, condoms should be used each time. Make sure the condom is not a novelty condom, or made from lambskin.

• Condoms come in a variety of styles and sizes. Try several different kinds before having sex to be sure you are using the one most comfortable for you.

• Condoms with spermicide such as nonoxynol-9 are not recommended because the spermicide can irritate the fragile skin of the vagina and rectum and increase the risk of acquiring an infection.

• Ask your healthcare provider or visit your local sexual health clinic for more information on how to protect yourself or for a sexually transmitted infections test.

• Sexually transmitted infections will not show up in blood or urine tests ordered for other conditions and these specific tests are not part of routine check-ups unless you ask for them to be included, so be proactive.

Making sure you are free from infection by using protection, getting tested and talking openly with your partners about sex is a big part of good sexual health.

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