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International News

Australia: Venereal Disease on the Rise Via Unsafe Gay Oral Sex

September 12, 2006

Recent dramatic increases in gonorrhea and syphilis infections among men -- rates not seen since the early 1980s -- indicate gay Australians are unaware of the STD risks of oral sex, sexual health experts say.

There were 405 gonorrhea cases in the first quarter of 2006, according to the Victorian Infectious Diseases Bulletin. That was an 11 percent increase over the previous quarter and 54 percent more than during the same period last year, when 260 cases were reported. Nearly 90 percent of the cases were men, whose ages ranged from 17 to 70.

The first quarter also saw 112 syphilis cases, up from 23 cases for the same period last year, and men accounted for 90 percent of the cases.

Some 40 percent of the syphilis cases seen at the Melbourne Sexual Health Center are orally transmitted, said Professor Christopher Fairley, its director. The risk is that "if you're infected with syphilis, which gives you an ulcer, or gonorrhea and you have inflammation, if you then have sex with someone with HIV you're substantially more likely to acquire HIV," Fairley said.

A separate University of New South Wales study found a 10 percent herpes simplex virus type 1-infection rate among gay men under age 25 in Sydney. HSV-1 infection, usually associated with oral cold sores, is becoming more common around the genitals.

Fairley cautioned men who have had unprotected oral sex with men to instead use condoms and get regularly screened for STDs, until they form regular partnerships and both partners are tested.

In the coming months, the Victorian Health Department plans to unveil a new STD prevention strategy.

Back to other news for September 12, 2006

Adapted from:
Sydney Morning Herald
09.08.2006; Jill Stark

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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