December 6, 2010
Rising rates of STDs seen in Australia's youth are prompting fears among public health officials of a future spike in HIV diagnoses.
"If their attitude to unsafe sex continues, it will only be a matter of time before HIV infections increase, too," said Levinia Crooks, CEO of the Australian Society of HIV Medicine.
Australia reported 62,600 cases of chlamydia in 2009, 80 percent of them in individuals aged 15 to 29. In a 2009 survey, only 52 percent of that age group said they had used a condom during their most recent sexual experience.
Public health officials are concerned this kind of inattention to safe sex could exacerbate Australia's expanding HIV epidemic. The number of Australians newly diagnosed with HIV in 2009 reached 1,050, the highest number in almost two decades and well above the approximately 700 cases per year diagnosed during the late 1990s.
"High rates of sexually transmitted infections among young people indicate that they are not adopting safe sex as a norm, and it is perhaps luck, rather than good planning, that has prevented an outbreak of HIV already," Crooks said.
In remarks marking World AIDS Day, Crooks suggested that underscoring the problem was youth's "dangerous complacency" toward HIV, "a quiet sense that if you are not gay, an injecting drug user or a sex worker, HIV is not a risk for you."