GUELPH - Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health has identified a cluster of sexually transmitted chlamydia infection cases in the University of Guelph area.
In an effort to combat such sexually - transmitted infections (STIs), the health unit is enhancing ties with campus student health services. And in another development, the health unit soon plans to offer quick HIV testing on campus.
The health unit identified 520 cases of chlamydia last year in its sprawling coverage area of Guelph and the two counties. Clinical services program manager Rosalyn LaRochelle said chlamydia is the most prevalent sexually transmitted infection among women 20 to 24 years old.
"It's significantly higher than the (other) STIs we have in our area," LaRochelle said Tuesday.
Curious to find out more, the agency plotted reported chlamydia cases from 2006 through 2009 on a map to see if a pattern of prevalence emerged.
"They actually were clustered in the university area," she said.
Further research points to the reason: 91 per cent of those with chlamydia bacterium infections hadn't used condoms, LaRochelle said.
Condoms provide barriers to contact with pathogens, reducing the risk of spreading disease through intimate contact.
"The message is: ‘Wear a condom. You can't go wrong,' " LaRochelle said.
Students on campus are trying to get that message across. LaRochelle said she was impressed by a recent safe-sex public information campaign, complete with YouTube video, launched by a student group called "Naked" that's associated with the campus Wellness Centre, the educational arm of student health services.
This "sexuality awareness team" advocates options such as abstinence, birth control and condoms.
"They just embraced that whole thing," LaRochelle said.
Meanwhile, LaRochelle said the health unit has responded to a request from students for rapid HIV testing on campus.
HIV is the virus that leads to AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), once a fatal illness, but with today's treatment options it is now considered by many as more of a chronic ailment. Such point-of-care service entails drawing a pinprick blood sample for immediate test results.
"It isn't 100 per cent conclusive," LaRochelle said. That's why a positive result suggests further testing be done through full blood work sampling and analysis, she said.
A negative result, however, isn't an assurance that a person hasn't been infected, she cautioned. That's because there's a window of up to three months in which a person may be infected, but without any detectable indications.
LaRochelle anticipates the health unit offering a couple of clinics a year on campus, with the first one near the end of September.

Details haven't been completed yet, though she said a logical location would be the J.T. Powell health services building.