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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: In BC, chlamydia continues to be diagnosed in females at twice the rate as in males. Females may have higher rates partly because they are tested more often as part of regular Pap testing and visits for contraception. In 2015, the rate of chlamydia in BC was highest in young adults aged 20-29, followed by adolescents aged 15-19 years.
Gonorrhea: In BC, males continue to have gonorrhea at approximately twice the rate as females. In 2015, the rates among both males and females increased to an all-time high, with the highest rate found in young adults aged 20-29 years. Gonorrhea is more likely to be concentrated in active sexual networks; the higher rate experienced by males is, in part, due to the higher rates of gonorrhea among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.
Syphilis: In recent years, the majority of syphilis cases reported in BC have been in gay men and other men who have sex with men. Since 2014, the highest rates of syphilis were among males aged 25-29, followed by males aged 30-39 years. 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: The rate of new HIV diagnoses in BC continues to be higher among males than females, although the rates among both males and females have decreased over the past 10 years. In 2015, the highest rate in males was among those aged 25-29 and in females was among those aged 30-39 years. Fifty-seven percent (57%) of new reported HIV cases in 2015 were in gay men and other men who have sex with men. The number of new cases in people reporting heterosexual sex increased slightly to 28.5%. New HIV cases among people who use injection drugs have decreased in recent years, reaching a low of 17 cases (7%) in 2015. 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.