A recent doubling of chlamydia in Australia portends a spike in HIV cases, health officials have warned.
"The concern is that if we see a condition like chlamydia on the rise, that indicates that there's a lot of unsafe sexual practices occurring and of course that sets up an environment where HIV transmission can increase as well," said Professor Michael Kidd, chair of a ministerial advisory group on sexual disease strategies.
In the four-year period ending 2008, chlamydia cases in Australia doubled to 60,000, according to federal statistics, with those ages 20-29 at highest risk.
Kidd's comments came as Australia launched new national strategies for addressing STDs, including HIV. He called for greater use of social media to attack the problem, supplanting prior initiatives that have not succeeded.
Australia's government is concentrating on reducing the country's HIV rate, federal parliamentary Secretary for Health Mark Butler said. About 1,000 new cases of HIV are diagnosed in Australia each year, a number that has plateaued in recent years.
"We're certainly happier with the plateauing than an ongoing increase, but we want to drive those rates down back to the sort of 600s or so per year that we were seeing in the beginning of the decade, and we see no reason that we can't do that," Butler said.
At the launch, Butler called for an increased emphasis on disease prevention. "Of the slightly more than $100 billion (US $85 billion) that we spend as a nation on health every year around 2 percent is spent on stopping people getting sick in the first place," he said.