Sexually Transmitted and Blood Borne Infections (STBBIs) are on the rise in New Brunswick, and AIDS New Brunswick and the Horizon Health Community Clinic are partnering with UNB nursing to provide free testing.
The aim is that by making testing services more accessible, they will raise awareness about the importance of getting tested.
“Knowing your status, of course, is an important thing. If you don’t know, then you can’t treat something that would otherwise be very treatable,” said Joan Kingston, faculty member of the UNB faculty of nursing and nurse manager of the Fredericton downtown community health centre.
The service began on Oct. 29 and will continue bi-weekly on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
“The reason that we’re doing this is that there are lots of barriers for people accessing testing and so we feel that by offering testing in more locations people are more likely to access testing, particularly if we offer it in a location where people are comfortable,” said Matt Smith, prevention programs manager with AIDS New Brunswick.
Smith said that some New Brunswickers may not access STBBI testing because of the province’s size.
“New Brunswick is a fairly small place … You might know someone who does the testing and so you might be a little more apprehensive to go somewhere and get testing,” he said.
“Sometimes sheer geography is a barrier for us. We’re a very rural province, we’re very spread out and so what we hope to do is to make testing more accessible by putting it around more locations.”
Kingston added that providing the service through AIDS New Brunswick may also give people a better sense of confidentiality.
“For some people, they don’t feel comfortable going in maybe to a health clinic and saying, ‘I want to be tested for STIs.’ So if they go to AIDS New Brunswick, they may feel it’s more confidential, they just feel a bigger comfort level being there,” she said.
“So that’s what it’s all about … Going to where people are, going to where they’re comfortable is a good way to increase accessibility to screening and testing.”
New Brunswick has seen an outbreak in Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis over the past two years. The age groups primarily affected are 18- to 24-year-olds and those over 50. This is an issue in a province where there are no provincially-run sexual health clinics for people over the age of 19.
Fortunately, community clinics and services such as the new initiative in Fredericton fill in the gap.
“The only way to know your status is to go and get a test. Many times the symptoms are described as flu-like or they can be benign or they can mimic other things,” Smith said.
STBBI testing is also always offered at the UNB Health Centre for all full-time UNB and STU students.