When the world’s top experts in sexually transmitted infections (STI) gather in Vancouver later this month, BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) staff and researchers will share what they’ve learned about providing low-barrier and culturally safe sexual health prevention, testing, diagnosis and treatment services in the province.
Twenty five BCCDC researchers will be featured at the upcoming STI & HIV 2019 World Congress
, taking place July 14 to 17. The meeting is a chance for international public health practitioners and clinicians to share research and best practices in sexual health. BCCDC staff have also been involved in the planning and programming of the event.
“We’re very proud of all of the hard work that our BCCDC team has contributed to the success of this conference,” said Dr. Troy Grennan, physician lead for the Provincial HIV/STI Program at BCCDC. “From strong representation on the organizing committee, to leading various pre-conference symposia, the BCCDC will have a strong presence at this year’s conference.
“Our clinicians and researchers will also have an opportunity to showcase the innovative and internationally-recognized work done here on our home turf. We look forward to networking with our colleagues from around the world, many of whom are key contributors to the success of our work.”
Big data, better care
BCCDC researchers are using big data to better understand sexually transmitted infections and blood-borne infections (STIBBIs) in B.C. to plan health care services for prevention, testing and treatment. For example, BCCDC has done work to identify patterns in past STI infections that may predict when a person is at higher risk for acquiring HIV or syphilis. It’s also useful to describe testing patterns to understand whether people are being diagnosed early in their infection, such as for HIV and hepatitis C.
Future of STI testing is online
In 2014, BCCDC launched the first online sexual health service in B.C. where people can get tested for STIs through a platform calledGetCheckedOnline
. Research shows that GetCheckedOnline provides users with similar care and services as STI clinics but more comfort and control over the experience.
Researchers will present findings about the online platform and how it can be used to overcome some of the barriers that prevent people from getting tested.
Awareness and prevention to tackle syphilis epidemic
BCCDC researchers will present research on interventions to address an ongoing syphilis outbreak affecting B.C. and most of North America. This included a provincial syphilis awareness campaign targeted at gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, a group disproportionately affected by epidemic. Syphistory featured historical figures known or rumored to have had syphilis and portrayed them as cartoon penises to engage those at highest risk. Researchers will also present early results from a study looking at the attitudes of men toward a prophylaxis treatment that involves taking a daily antibiotic to prevent new infections in the first place.
Ocular syphilis is a rare and serious complication of syphilis that affects the eye. Findings about the rise in cases in B.C. have been selected for an oral presentation.
Vaccines to prevent STIs
Ahead of Congress, B.C. researchers are convening an event focused on STI vaccines
on July 14. The symposium will examine how vaccine hesitancy could impact attitudes and uptake of new STI vaccines. It will review experiences from the introduction of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine that prevents certain types of cancers including most cervical cancers and how the lessons learned could give health care providers the tools to address vaccine hesitancy. It will also highlight research into the development of new vaccines to help curb increasing rates of STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and syphilis.
The event is organized by the BC-based Sexually Transmitted Infections Vaccine Consortium (STRIVE-BC) which includes researchers, clinicians and public health leaders from BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre, BCCDC and the University of British Columbia.