A prescription drug test – also known as a COVID test – is now available at 60 Canadian pharmacies.
For people with COVID symptoms, who have not yet developed syphilis, the screening will provide vital information that could prevent more lives from being lost.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said COVID tests could detect the infection early, and send a person immediately to a doctor, where a thorough care plan could be set up to ensure their safety.
“There is a high rate of cases that occur during their secondary sexual activity and, therefore, can be prevented by early detection,” said Dr. Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s Minister of Health.
All 50,000 residents of Toronto will be screened from Monday, starting at locations within five kilometres of the Humber River station.
The tests may not identify how the disease entered the person, which is why early detection is essential, said Dr. Kitty Macdonald, co-director of the Esky Partnership, who joined the ministry in announcing the initiative.
“We hope this decision will help us avoid 30 more lives being lost in the city of Toronto,” she said.
Dr. Brian Monahan, chair of the independent Review Panel, said patients who are sent for treatment to find out if they are positive should be “given prompt care”.
“That’s the most important message we can get out. They should be seen immediately,” he said.
There are only about 10 cases of syphilis in Toronto every year, and the majority of those are sexually transmitted.
Elliott said the new measure will offer an early intervention for people who may be at risk.
Health Canada said in the past the agency was not aware of an authorized private provider testing to determine syphilis status at pharmacies in Canada.