Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection (STI) that impacts both men and women.  The Northwest Territories has one of the highest rates of gonorrhea in the country.

Gonorrhea is transmitted through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Gonorrhea can also be transmitted from mother to baby during childbirth.

If you are sexually active, then you are at risk for getting gonorrhea. Increased risk occurs if you have multiple sex partners, and unprotected sex. In the NWT, gonorrhea disproportionately affects sexually active youth and young adults, especially young women. Highest rates are observed in men aged 20-29 years of age and women aged 15 to 25 years of age.

Gonorrhea often has no symptoms so people may not realize they are infected. You can still spread gonorrhea even if you do not have symptoms.

The only reliable way to know if you have gonorrhea is to get tested. Gonorrhea testing is done through a urine sample or swab. STI testing is free and confidential in the NWT.

Treatment for gonorrhea requires antibiotics; the infection will not go away on its own. If left untreated gonorrhea can lead to permanent health problems and fertility complications.  Antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea is on the rise and getting harder to treat. Many gonorrhea strains that are circulating have become resistant to previously recommended antibiotics.

Frequently, people who have gonorrhea are also found to have chlamydia.  Many times, a health care provider will give treatment for both infections. Treatment for gonorrhea does not protect you from getting infected again. If you are treated, and your sex partner is not, it is likely you will get infected again (reinfection).

The only way to completely avoid getting gonorrhea is not to have sexual contact. If you are sexually active, you can minimize your risk of getting infected with gonorrhea by ensuring:

  • Correct and consistent use of condoms or other barrier protection
  • Avoid sexual contact if you or your partner is being treated for an STI
  • limiting the number of sexual partners, you have and knowing who they are
  • Getting tested regularly for STIs

References:  (Government of the Northwest Territories) Alberta Health services) (Public Health Agency of Canada)