SEXUALLY transmitted infections (STIs) are on the rise in Canada as illustrated by several provincial outbreaks over the last year in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan as well as a significant surge in BC. The increases are a result of multiple factors including inconsistent condom usage as well as antibiotic resistance which has made some of the most common STIs, such as gonorrhea and syphilis, more difficult to treat.
“The misperception that STIs are easily treated with antibiotics may be contributing to a general decline in safe sex. But now more than ever, because of antibiotic resistance and the prevalence of STIs, we need to be urging the use of condoms,” says Lily Liang, pharmacist at London Drugs.
STIs are predominantly spread through unprotected sex and sometimes are transferred without causing symptoms which is why public-health recommends routine screening before having sex with a new partner. The majority of STIs are preventable through measures such as condom use.
One roadblock to safe sex, says Liang, is that many people are still shy to openly purchase condoms.
“There is nothing shameful about practicing safe sex. The more comfortable pharmacies can make it to purchase condoms – especially for adolescence and young adults – the more likely we are to encourage safe sex behaviors and prevent the spread of STIs,” Liang says.
As part of World Sexual Health Day on September 4, London Drugs pharmacies will be providing free condoms. It’s part of an effort both to encourage safe sex and to highlight the role pharmacists can play in helping individuals make informed choices about their sexual health – from aiding in the prevention of unwanted pregnancies, to providing information about the best contraceptive options, and reviewing symptoms with patients, recommending STI screening or referring to doctors when necessary.
“Some may feel embarrassed to discuss sexual issues with a healthcare professional but pharmacists are easily accessible without an appointment and they are used to discussing a wide range of topics, including sexual health. Private counseling booths and consultation rooms are available at most pharmacies for added confidentiality and discretion,” says Liang.
Order-online-pickup-instore, self-checkouts, and home delivery options have helped to make purchasing condoms as well as sexual intimacy products more discrete. In recent years, London Drugs has also expanded their sexual health offerings to include more than just traditional prophylactics with the addition of personal lubricants, massagers and other intimacy products.
“There is still a lot of stigma surrounding the topic, but if we look at sexual health as simply a part of overall health, we can create a more open, accepting environment. No one should be afraid to ask questions about their health,” she says.
Free Durex condoms will be available until supplies last at all London Drugs pharmacies on World Sexual Health Day which is observed annually on September 4 in an effort to promote a greater social awareness on sexual health.