Victoria is on course to reach its goal of eliminating new HIV transmissions by 2020, but Burnet researchers warn that STIs need greater attention.
The latest HIV data reveals a significant fall in new cases – a drop from 57 between April and June 2018, compared to 92 for the same period last year.
Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a significant factor in this. Since its listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, it has become more affordable and will further reduce the transmission of HIV.
But record increases in STIs are being seen in Victoria. Last year the state had the highest number of STIs reported since records began in 1991.
Chlamydia, which affects both men and women, has been identified as an infection that needs greater attention, while there have also been increases in the rates of gonorrhoea and syphilis in women.
Victorian Minister for Health, the Hon Jill Hennessy MP has launched an AUD$300,000 awareness campaign encouraging all Victorians to get tested for STIs.
Burnet’s Head of Surveillance and Evaluation, Ms Carol El-Hayek says addressing the problem starts with encouraging young Victorians to get tested – 80 per cent of chlamydia in Victoria is among people aged 15-25.
“When we talk about chlamydia, young heterosexuals are really at risk,” Ms El-Hayek said.
“If it’s left untreated, it can lead to infertility. Go pee in a jar – get your test done. It’s easy to test, easy to treat.”
For many women chlamydia is symptom-free. The lack of visible telltale signs has contributed to a decline in the rate for testing among young females.
This isn’t the case for men, who can experience strong pain when urinating or suffer from epididymo-orchitis, which manifests in swollen testicles.
STI testing is available from your local doctor, family planning clinics, community health services, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations and sexual health clinics.