Group calls for continued access to STI testing in NS

A group representing sexual health centers across Nova Scotia is calling for consistent access to testing for sexually transmitted infections, especially in rural areas.

Leigh Heide, provincial sexual health coordinator for Nova Scotia, said some Nova Scotians have been unable to access services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s something that’s been on our radar for some time, including before the pandemic and then exacerbated by the pandemic,” Heide told CBC Radio. Main Street Halifax Wednesday.

One of the group’s six member centers, the Halifax Sexual Health Centre, had to suspend testing for certain sexually transmitted infections at various times during the pandemic due to pressures on lab staff processing COVID-19 tests.

Heide said the pandemic has impacted not only testing but also efforts to educate the public about sexual health, including a syphilis outbreak reported in January 2020 by public health officials in New Brunswick. Scotland.

Heide said it’s unclear where those cases stand in 2022.

“We imagine that the syphilis epidemic hasn’t necessarily diminished much over time because we haven’t really been able to deal with it,” Heide said.

“We haven’t been able to do any testing to get people to get tested for syphilis, we haven’t been able to do much to reach community members.”

Heide said the group suspects that sexually transmitted infections are on the rise due to poor access to health services and safer sex supplies.

“For most of [infections] — chlamydia, gonorrhea and that sort of thing — a few weeks of waiting won’t change much in terms of the trajectory of infection,” Heide said.

“However, depending on how a person’s symptoms look – which can vary widely – it’s probably going to be uncomfortable. I think one of the biggest impacts will be the mental health aspect.”

Coming out of the pandemic, Heide said there will still be issues accessing the tests, which are typically offered at doctors’ offices, some walk-in clinics and sexual health clinics. As a last option, some people are tested in an emergency room.

Heide said having a sexual health clinic in every community in Nova Scotia, or at least in every health zone, would help, as well as getting long-term government funding instead of having to apply for a grant each year.

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