Third National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategy: 2010–2013

6.1 Testing and treatment of sexually transmissible infections

Page last updated: July 2010

Bacterial STIs (gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis) are preventable, easily detected and curable. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged under 30 years experience much higher rates of these diseases than do non-indigenous people in the same age groups. These higher rates have major implications when infections are undiagnosed, especially for young women’s reproductive health (including pregnancy). More is known about rates of infection among remote and very remote communities yet little is known among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people living in more urban settings, particularly for gonorrhoea and chlamydia, because accurate and complete data do not exist in all jurisdictions on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status.

While there has been some success in reducing infectious syphilis over recent years in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities (such as downward trends in the Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia), a greater national focus is required to work towards eliminating infectious syphilis in this population. Given the diversity within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and service settings, a jurisdiction-led response that strengthens comprehensive sexual health programs in the primary care setting will be developed for communities affected by syphilis. This response 28 Chapter 6: Priority action areas may include strategies to be detailed in implementation plans to improve syphilis testing, contact tracing and follow up, as well as health-provider and community education.

In some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations, data suggest that trichomonal infections are endemic. While it is usually asymptomatic in men, this readily treatable infection causes under-reported, localised, genital symptoms in women and is associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes and increased risk of HIV transmission. The development of testing treatment guidelines for trichomonas based on a literature review is supported. Targeted interventions will also be considered to reduce the burden of this infection on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in remote communities. The literature review will also make recommendations on the development of the evidence base around this infection for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women living in urban areas.