Offloading the prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), leads to late detection which allows the epidemic to spread.
Every year, there are around 600 cases of HIV, a figure that is more or less stable according to the president of theClinique l’Actuel, Dr Réjean Thomas.
This expert is concerned that 60% of people who were diagnosed in 2020 were getting tested for the first time. In addition, 25% already had a very weakened immune system, suggesting that they have been infected for 3 to 10 years.
However, STI testing clinics have had to reduce their opening hours or even close their doors so that their staff and resources are dedicated to COVID-19.
This worries Dr. Thomas since most people who have an STI have no symptoms. However, these diseases can cause serious complications, such as infertility in women.
“Without prevention, the consequences that can be had are terrible. This is part of the collateral damage that we will experience in the coming years because of COVID-19, ”he says.
Explosions of STIs
Moreover, the Clinique l’Actuel, which remains open, treated more patients for STIs in 2020 than the previous year. “Despite the months of the pandemic, months ago that we treated particularly a lot of gonorrhea or syphilis,” he says.
The doctor explains this increase by the fact that young people still have an active sex life although they have had to isolate themselves. “Young people were told they were not at risk for COVID-19, that they would not develop complications,” he says. Many are at home doing nothing, many are on social media, so there is a problem of isolation. When you are in your twenties or thirties, sexuality is still very present, it’s part of their life. “
The president of L’Actuel reminds that a person who has greatly reduced their sexual activity can delay screening. However, others, more active, need to be screened regularly.
“Over the past 10 years, gonorrhea has increased by 200% and syphilis even more. “- Dr Réjean Thomas, president of the Clinique l’Actuel
This is the case for people who are being treated for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), an HIV prevention strategy that aims to reduce the risk of HIV infection.
This preventive treatment can be given daily and continuously to HIV negative people who are at high risk of infection.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, when the pre-exposure prophylaxis drug is given as prescribed, it reduces the risk of HIV infection during sexual intercourse by more than 90%.
“People who are on PrEP are tested every three months. It is very important that these people do not have HIV and that they do not continue to transmit it, ”explains Réjean Thomas, who participated in the research on DESCOVY, a drug for pre-exposure prophylaxis.
However, the doctor noted a decrease in the number of follow-ups. “So there is great concern about whether people have stopped taking it,” he says. Some patients tell us that they have fewer partners, fewer contacts, but at the same time, we have more STIs. “