Experts in the field of sexual health say that in Canada and around the world there is a growing number of infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis – and they say that the blame is the fall in the use of condoms.
This topic is one of many that will be discussed during the World Congress of STI and HIV in Vancouver this week.
Nathan Lachowsky, assistant professor at the School of Public Health and Social Policy at the University of Victoria, will be one of several Canadian scientists presenting their work at the congress.
Lachowsky says condom use has been decreasing in the general population and LGBT men for years, and scientists are still working to determine why.
"It's really unfortunate," said Lachowsky. "Condoms are a precautionary tool that we have been using for a long time, and we have actually become better in increasing their comfort."
Statistics from B.C. The Center for Disease Control shows that some sexually transmitted infections in B.C. and Canada has grown exponentially since 2003.
Learning from the past
These increases appear at a time when HIV indicators, especially in B.C., have decreased significantly.
Vancouver Coastal Health said last month that the number of new HIV infections in the region has fallen 52 percent since 2011, and it is expected that it will continue to fall to a record low.
Dr. Julio Montaner, executive director of B.C. Center of Excellence in HIV / AIDS, recognizes the aggressive struggle of B.C. with the disease.
But he warns against assuming that people use fewer condoms today because they think drugs will stop them from being infected. Montaner says previous research has shown that it is not.
Instead, Montaner believes that sexually active researchers can learn from B.C. in the fight against HIV / AIDS, which includes targeting at risk and offering prophylactic treatment to prevent the spread of the disease.
"We must admit that further efforts are needed so that we can extend this success to other areas," said Montaner.
Buying disinfectant condoms for some
Kirsten Gilbert, director of Sex Education at Options for Sexual Health, admits that the AIDS epidemic is not as common in popular culture.
But he says that teenagers are just as scared today to get STI, like 30 years ago.
"The argument that children today are not scared enough is not a calculation for me why they use fewer condoms," Gilbert said.
Gilbert says that young people make different decisions about their sexual health – in this they wait longer for sex and use hormonal birth control. And most of them use condoms, although a little less than before.
He claims that the key to combating sexually transmitted infections is to provide people with comprehensive sexual education, which includes teaching how to choose the right type of condoms and how to use them effectively.
Despite advances in sex education in B.C. Gilbert says that in schools he still meets students who have never seen a condom or shown what to do with them.
"Buying condoms may seem extremely discouraging for someone without much confidence, without much knowledge and without much experience," she said.