Alberta, like other jurisdictions in Canada and around the world, has experienced a rapid increase in infectious syphilis over the last decade. This led to an outbreak being declared in Alberta in 2019.

Syphilis can severely damage one’s heart, brain or other organs, and can be life-threatening. Thankfully, it is a treatable disease and is also preventable through education.   

To curb the rising rate of syphilis, Alberta’s government introduced the Syphilis Outbreak Action Response (SOAR) grant program earlier this year to help fund community-based organizations with initiatives that focus on the prevention, testing and treatment of syphilis.

“We must take targeted action to address syphilis rates in our province. By funding key partners that already work with vulnerable individuals and communities, we can slow the spread of syphilis and ensure appropriate services and care are accessible.”

Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Health

Following the launch of the grant program, eligible community-based organizations, including Indigenous organizations, were invited to submit their proposals. Eight organizations have been selected:

  • Community-Based Research Centre Society ($315,000)
  • Turning Point Society of Central Alberta ($999,000)
  • SafeLink Alberta Society ($825,000)
  • Centre for Sexuality Society ($600,000)
  • HIV Network of Edmonton Society ($861,000)
  • Boyle McCauley Health Centre Society ($1.06 million)
  • Northreach Society ($1.2 million)
  • Sandy Beach Ki Mamow Atoskanow Foundation ($190,000)

The eight projects will receive approximately $6 million over three years to develop and implement initiatives, with a focus on populations and geographic areas experiencing higher rates of infectious syphilis and congenital syphilis.

“HIV Edmonton in collaboration with Streetworks, Boyle Street Community Services, welcomes the funding provided in response to the syphilis outbreak across the province, especially in the Edmonton region. Along with the other local recipient organization, Radius Community Health and Healing, we see a harmonized approach to supporting Albertans to access testing, treatment, support and education to lower transmission rates and eliminate congenital syphilis.”

Catherine Broomfield, executive director, HIV Network of Edmonton

The funds will support projects that increase awareness of syphilis and sexual well-being, increase testing for syphilis, improve access to culturally safe care and management for syphilis, and eliminate congenital syphilis.

Quick facts

  • In 2022, reported rates of infectious syphilis increased in all AHS zones except Edmonton Zone.
  • The North Zone and Edmonton Zone are currently experiencing the highest rates, however, the largest rate increase was in the South Zone (90 per cent increase).
  • A total of 3,328 cases of infectious syphilis were reported in the province in 2022.
  • A total of 273 congenital syphilis cases have been diagnosed between 2018 and 2022.
  • Congenital syphilis is a severe and life-threatening illness with up to 40 per cent of babies of infected mothers being stillborn.
    • Congenital syphilis occurs when a mother with syphilis passes the infectious disease on to her baby during pregnancy. It can lead to serious outcomes, including bone deformations, hearing loss, blindness, low birth weight, premature birth and stillbirth.