New research showing higher-than-normal rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in Northern Canada, or the Canadian Arctic, has some experts concerned about what this may mean for HIV prevalence in the region, reports The Canadian Press (canadianpress.google.com, 1/21).

The study, published initially in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, compared instances of chlamydia and gonorrhea in Canada’s three northern territories with those in southern Canada, Alaska and Greenland between 2003 and 2006.

“[STD rates have] definitely been going up in the North, and it's rather alarming how fast,” said Dionne Gesink Law, a University of Toronto researcher and co-author of the paper.

Gesink Law said that both chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to an increased risk of HIV infection, and further, that the recent high rate of disease transmission suggests safe sex isn’t being practiced. “They obviously have sexual practices that are putting them at risk for [sexually transmitted diseases],” she said. “If [HIV] was to come into the community, it could spread quickly.”

Canadian and U.S. officials plan to meet in Anchorage next month to discuss the situation.