A service provided by the BC Centre for Disease Control

About STIs

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Limitations

The statistics reported in this section give a snapshot of STIs in the BC population based on surveillance and research data that is available. These statistics have the following important limitations:

  • The true number of people with an STI is unknown because not everyone has been tested. Many people with STIs do not get symptoms and so do not get tested. Without being tested, a person is not counted.
  • These statistics cannot tell you if you or your sexual partner(s) have an STI. Statistics can show patterns of STIs in a population but cannot predict if an individual has or will get an STI.
  • There may be a delay in reporting cases, which leads to an under-estimate in counts and rates in the most recent year.
  • Trends over time should be interpreted with caution. Tests have become better at detecting STIs so more STIs can be counted. Also, changes in testing procedures mean that more people will get tested. For example, more men get tested for STIs now because they can give a urine sample rather than a urethral swab.
  • Identifying characteristics like age, gender, sexual orientation, and other socio-demographics require that a public health nurse or health care provider collect that information at the time of diagnosis. In many cases, this information is not collected and is missing from reported cases. This limits the ability to describe STIs in certain population groups.
  • Some groups have different patterns of behavior or differences in biology that make certain STIs more likely to spread to those people or be counted in testing. Several different factors may help to explain these differences.
  • Certain sexual activities are more likely to allow transmission of certain STIs. Unprotected vaginal and anal sex are more likely to transmit some STIs.
  • Some groups may be more likely to have casual or shorter-term sexual relationships and with more partners.
  • Groups of people tend to date others within their own social group. If a social group is sexually active or tends not to use condoms, there is a greater chance of STIs being spread in that group.
  • Some groups of people are likely to get tested more often than others. For example, more women than men get HIV testing in BC because of prenatal HIV screening.
  • Some STIs are more likely to show symptoms in women and others more likely to show symptoms in men because of differences in physical biology.
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