Australia: Safe Sex Message Being Ignored
April 7, 2004
The latest data from the Department of Human Services show a continuing STD rate increase for Victoria. From 2002 to 2003, Victoria's chlamydia cases increased from 4,846 notifications to 6,485, occurring mainly among heterosexuals ages 20-24. Gonorrhea increased from 802 notifications in 2002 to 1,160 cases in 2003. Since 2000, when Victoria recorded eight syphilis cases, the notifications doubled each year to reach 55 in 2003. Syphilis and gonorrhea were being spread to both sexes predominantly by male partners.
Alcohol and drugs were often factors in unsafe sex, said professor Steve Wesselingh of Melbourne's Burnet Institute. Wesselingh is the chair of a new ministerial advisory committee on HIV, hepatitis C and other STDs that is meeting Wednesday for the first time.
Many youths did not perceive themselves to be at risk of acquiring STDs. "I think young people think about HIV in terms of very high risk behavior," said Wesselingh. "The problem with chlamydia is that it's probably being transmitted in groups that aren't particularly promiscuous but do have multiple partners."
More oral sex could explain a rise in gonorrhea and syphilis during a year when HIV infections declined slightly. Gay and bisexual men may be attempting to avoid HIV infection by engaging in more oral sex but then acquire other STDs, said professor Christopher Fairley, Melbourne Sexual Health Center Director and a member of the new committee. "A number of cases that we see at the center are attributable to oral sex alone," he said. Fairley suggested more intensive testing for STDs in men to further reduce HIV and gonorrhea transmission.
04.04.04; Lucy Beaumont
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.