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STIs do not affect everyone in the population equally. It is important to remember that while some groups are more affected by certain STIs than others, sexual behaviours ultimately determine a person’s individual risk for an STI.
STI data are usually studied by sex, age, and routes of transmission (ways infections spread from person to person) to help identify groups of the population that may be experiencing increases in STI rates.
Chlamydia: The rate of chlamydia in BC is highest in young women 15 to 24 years old. Young women may have higher rates partly because they are tested more often as part of regular pap testing and visits for contraception. Among men, the highest rate of chlamydia is in the group aged 20 to 29 years old.
Gonorrhea: The rate of gonorrhea in BC is highest in men, especially those 20 to 39 years old. Gonorrhea infections in gay men and other men who have sex with men, and the fact that men are more likely than women to show symptoms of gonorrhea, may in explain why we have more reported cases among men.
Syphilis: In recent years, the vast majority of syphilis cases reported in BC have been in gay men and other men who have sex with men, especially those 25 to 59 years old. The number of syphilis cases in other groups affected by the outbreak have decreased steadily over time except heterosexual contact which increased slightly recently.
HIV: Fifty-seven percent (57%) of new reported HIV cases in BC in 2014 were in gay men and other men who have sex with men. Twenty-five percent (25%) of new cases were in people reporting heterosexual sex. New HIV cases among people who use injection drugs have decreased in recent years, though there were still 25 new cases (about 10% of the total cases) in 2014. See the report Decreasing HIV Infections Among People Who Use Drugs by Injection in British Columbia for more information about trends in HIV among people using injection drugs in BC.
HPV: Numerous surveys from North America show that young women and men, especially those under 20 years of age, have the highest rates of HPV (human papillomavirus). HPV is also more common among men who have sex with men. In a 2008 study where men provided rectal swab, 3 out of 5 gay men in Vancouver tested positive for HPV.
Genital herpes: Herpes simplex is a common STI across all groups of people. Some data from BC suggest that genital herpes is more commonly diagnosed in women than in men. The older you are, the more likely you are to have acquired the herpes simplex virus. This is because people have had more time to become exposed at some point in their life.