Breaking Barriers: Expanding Syphilis Point-of-Care Testing and Immediate Treatment to Meet the Needs of Underserved Communities

Monday, March 18, 2024 16:00to17:00

Sahar Saeed, PhD

Assistant Professor |
Dept of Public Health Sciences | Queen's University

WHEN: Monday, March 18, 2024, from 4 to 5 p.m.
WHERE: Hybrid| 2001 McGill College, Rm 1140 | Zoom
Sahar Saeed will be presenting in-person


Urgent, tailored, and equitable action is needed to address the alarming rise in syphilis rates in Canada. Syphilis is a curable infection, yet systemic barriers obstruct access to effective interventions. Given the shift in epidemiology and the stark geographic disparities in resources, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this complex issue. Underserved communities–people who use drugs (PWUD), sex workers, and people un(der)housed– face unique social and healthcare challenges that increase their vulnerability to syphilis infections and hinder their access to timely diagnosis and treatment. Low-barrier interventions such as the use of point-of-care tests (POCT) outside traditional healthcare settings have been shown to be an effective strategy for reaching underserved people living with hepatitis C and HIV. Still, there is a paucity of implementation and effectiveness studies for similar interventions for other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBIs), particularly in non-urban, rural and remote settings. I will present our latest findings of the Syphilis Point of Care Testing and Immediate Treatment Evaluation (SPRITE) study, an innovative, community-based partnership between five public health units in Ontario and Queen’s University.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this session, attendees will:

  • Understand the epidemiological trends of syphilis in Canada;
  • Appreciate the utility of point-of-care testing to mitigate the transmission of infectious syphilis;
  • Recognize the critical role of public health partnerships and community-based engagement in implementation science research

Speaker Bio

Sahar Saeed is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at Queen's University and the Principal Investigator of the EPIX Lab. She received her Ph.D. in Epidemiology from McGill University (2019) and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in Implementation Science at Washington University in St. Louis (2022). Her research interests lie at the intersection of policy evaluation, health outcome disparities, and knowledge translation. As an epidemiologist and health services researcher, Sahar leverages innovative methods and data to study population-level health inequalities among marginalized populations. Since 2016, her research has consistently been funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and she has published more than 50 papers.

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