Canada Blames 'Social Media' for Gonorrhea Epidemic

Image: CDC
Image: CDC

If these numbers are to be believed, the residents of Alberta are swimming in sexually transmitted diseases. Last year, the Canadian province saw an 80 percent increase in cases of gonorrhea. What to blame? According to the government, “social media.”

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No doubt that these stats are troubling. According to the Edmonton Journal, the province reported 82 gonorrhea cases per every 100,000 Albertans in 2015, the highest rate since the 1980s. And that’s not the only STD that’s got Alberta worried: Syphilis rates have doubled since 2014. And this is all because of Twitter:

“New social media tools enable people to communicate quickly to arrange anonymous sexual encounters, resulting in increased difficulty in tracking STIs,” said Dr. Karen Grimsrud. “When people don’t know their sexual partners’ identities, it makes it difficult to contact partners for follow-up testing and treatment.”

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Ah, okay, I think she actually might mean... Tinder? But at any rate, Alberta has a plan:

Alberta Health Services will continue to promote http://www.sexgerms.com and its social media campaign to raise awareness and encourage STI testing.

Fighting social media-induced gonorrhea with social media! That sounds smart! Now let me just navigate over to sexgerms dot com and...

Illustration for article titled Canada Blames Social Media for Gonorrhea Epidemic
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Oh my god what in the—

Illustration for article titled Canada Blames Social Media for Gonorrhea Epidemic
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Are those buttholes? And what is—

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Ok, maybe social media does spread sex germs. I think I just contracted something from that tweet.

[Edmonton Journal]

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Alissa is the former urbanism editor at Gizmodo.

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DISCUSSION

First of all, Dr. Karen Grimsrud is not the Albertan Minister of Health, she’s the Chief Medical Officer of Health (a few rungs down the ladder). Secondly, she does have a point. Most of these infections are treatable. It gets a lot harder to tell your former partners about the STI (ie. let them know so they can let their former partners know and to abstain until it’s treated) when all you have is, “Well... they’re on <insert social media site>. Does that help?”; this, in turn, makes it harder to contain STI outbreaks. Of course this wouldn’t be as big of a problem if they’d worn protection. When I was in Albertan school they taught condoms in sex ed, do they not do that now?

As to all the comments about stigmatizing the infected, I’m not sure this campaign is stigmatizing. If anything it turns STI’s into a bit of a joke that might make it easier to convince people to get tested. Must say though, the design of the website is a bit dated and gaudy.