Healthy Living in the North

February 14th: Sexual and Reproductive Health Day

sexual and reproductive health dayThis Friday is February 14th. Do you know what day that is? Of course you do! It’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Day in Canada, as recognized by the Canadian Federation for Sexual Health. Sexual and reproductive health covers a wide range of topics, including awareness of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Over the past 10 years, Northern Health has seen and treated an increasing amount of STIs and this trend is likely to continue unless we take more precautions. Here are some facts about STIs in the north:

  • STIs affect both men and women
  • Almost half of STIs occur in people under the age of 25
  • There are at least 20 different kinds of STI
  • Some STIs are more common, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and human papillomavirus virus (HPV)

An STI is not something that you want to deal with, so it’s important to know how to recognize their symptoms, how to prevent them, and where to get testing and treatment.

Symptoms can vary for each STI, but here are some of the general ones to look out for:

  • Sores or blisters on the genitals or around the anus or mouth
  • Irregular growths (warts) in genital area
  • Genital itching
  • Pain with intercourse, urination or having a bowel movement
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting after sexual intercourse
  • Rash
  • Pain or swelling of glands in groin area

The best way to prevent getting an STI is to use a condom every time you engage in intercourse. Getting tested regularly is also important. You can do so at the health unit or at your doctor’s office. Regular testing is vital because some people have no symptoms at all. You should get tested if:

  • You have any symptoms
  • Your partner has been diagnosed with an STI or has symptoms
  • You have started a new relationship
  • You or your partner have not been tested in the last year

An HPV infection can lead to serious health problems, including genital warts and cervical cancer.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea and are both treatable. Treatment is free at sexual health clinics throughout the north. Treating HPV depends on the type of infection (there are over 100 kinds). For more information on treatment and testing, please visit your local health unit.

Fortunately two vaccines are available in Canada to prevent HPV infections, Gardasil™ and Cervarix™. They are provided at no cost to many girls and women. You can get them at your local health unit, doctor’s office, and many pharmacies. For more information on HPV and other vaccines and eligibility, please visit Immunize BC.

Kim Garrison

About Kim Garrison

Kim is the Public Health Communications Liaison Nurse and works out of Mackenzie. She has a background in public health, and is a graduate of UNBC. She was born and raised in Prince George, and recently moved to Mackenzie with her young family. Her favorite thing about Mackenzie so far is Morfee Lake, which is about five minutes away from her house! She keeps busy chasing after her little ones, and enjoys getting outside when it’s not too cold out!