Toronto will see a spike in sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies with public health nurses on strike, sexual health experts say.

City-run sexual health clinics, which provide free or low-cost birth control, testing for STIs (sexually transmitted infections) and free treatment and emergency contraceptive pills, are closed, and many clinics that partner with Toronto Public Health are running at reduced capacity.

“If these services continue not to be offered, the transmission rates will be higher,” said LaRon E. Nelson, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing.

“Sexual health clinics reduce the amount of disease in the community and we are less able to do that now.”

Public health staff are also concerned about important services affected by the strike, and plan to hold a news conference tomorrow at Metro Hall.

Nelson and other experts say the city’s most vulnerable — teens, the poor and new immigrants — are falling through the cracks despite Toronto Public Health contingency plans. Many people who seek services at sexual health clinics are one-time clients who want anonymity, youth who are reluctant to see a family doctor and those who do not have OHIP cards.

The city’s five full-time sexual health clinics see about 1,500 people every month, said Toronto Public Health spokeswoman Anne Marie Aikins.