Alberta's $2 million awareness campaign aimed at club-goers
Attack launched against high syphilis rate
Alberta has Canada's highest STD rates. After years of fighting escalating syphilis levels, the province has begun a $2 million (US $2.07 million) promotion to increase awareness among those who frequent bars and clubs.
An edgier promotion focused more widely on all STDs will succeed that effort to the tune of $4 million (US $4.13 million) in annual funding for three years. It aims to eliminate congenital syphilis and to reduce gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV, and hepatitis to below the national average. Between 1999 and 2009, Alberta's recorded gonorrhea cases more than doubled to 1,585; chlamydia infections spiked 207 percent to 13,000; and syphilis shot up from two cases to 279. Also in 2009, congenital syphilis killed four of the nine Alberta babies born with the STD.
"We need to be much more aggressive than we ever have been and we need a lot more help than we ever thought we would," noted Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky. His department will work to address the crisis in conjunction with the education, aboriginal affairs and housing ministries, the federal health and corrections department, and local community groups.
A new five-year strategy has Alberta Health Services hiring 10 nurses this year to supplement the 13 hired last year to locate former partners of the infected. The province's health administrators will also upgrade a physician's part-time position to full-time to concentrate on STDs. Gestational STD testing will continue being done three times during pregnancy.
Posters have begun going up in bars, admonishing young patrons to know partners' sexual history to curb infection. The ads and videos also note that STDs can be asymptomatic. A social media promotion will debut in the next few weeks, focusing on those ages 15 to 24.