Officials with Alberta Health Services and Alberta Health are increasing testing for pregnant women, as outbreaks of sexually transmitted infections continue in the province.

The province said rates of gonorrhea and syphilis are still high – with 3,869 cases of gonorrhea recorded in Alberta so far this year, and 369 cases of infectious syphilis.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Tuesday that six cases of congenital syphilis – meaning the infection had been passed to newborns – have been reported to the province so far in 2017.

As a result, the province is recommending an increase in testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea for all pregnant women in the first trimester, repeating testing in the third trimester for mothers at a high risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease.

Currently, all women are tested for syphilis early in their pregnancies, and again before delivery.

Meanwhile, starting in February, 2018, officials said Alberta Health will begin covering the cost for the Human Papillomavirus immunization for men who have sex with men, and transgender women aged 17 to 26-years-old. The province said people within that population could have disproportionately high rates of complications from HPV, saying they are about 20 times more likely to develop anal cancer than heterosexual men.

The province said the main goal of the HPV immunization program is to prevent cancer.

Alberta Health is also putting $18.5 million to the Alberta Community Council on HIV over three years. The non-profit group represents community organizations that provide support to vulnerable populations, including people with STIs.

Grants are also being provided to Boyle Street Community Services ($400,000) in Edmonton, to support a team to raise STI awareness through the Streetworks program, and the Calgary Sexual Health Centre ($600,000) to support comprehensive sexual health education for junior high and senior high students.