Australia: Rates of Gonorrhea, Chlamydia Surge

Chlamydia diagnoses last year in Australia grew by 17 percent over the 2009 figure, while gonorrhea diagnoses shot up by 25 percent, the Kirby Institute reported today. More testing does not account for all of the increases, said David Wilson, an associate professor at the University of New South Wales-based institute.

"What we are seeing right now is the rate of diagnosis is surpassing the rate of testing, so that indicates there's an increase in overall infection levels," Wilson said. "So there's an epidemic."

Wilson said men's lack of condom use is fueling the rise in STDs. Young heterosexuals were the most likely to be infected with chlamydia, with 80 percent of last year's patients ages 15-29. The rate among women almost quadrupled, and it more than tripled among men who have sex with men. MSM last year also had a sharp increase in rectal gonorrhea infections, resulting in the highest population rate of gonorrhea diagnosis across jurisdictions over the last decade.

HIV and viral hepatitis remained mostly stable. The 1,043 new HIV diagnoses in 2010 were in line with the 1,000 diagnoses typically seen in each of the last five years, the report noted. Diagnoses of infectious syphilis, largely among MSM, declined to 4.9 cases per 100,000 from 6.7 per 100,000 in 2007.

Widespread rapid HIV testing could help Australia meet its UN commitment of halving new HIV infections by 2015, said Rob Lake, executive director of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organizations.

It is time to "move beyond this plateau and decrease infection rates," Lake said. "Overseas experience has shown that when rapid HIV testing is offered, testing rates increase, and many people who have never previously tested present for testing."

To read the report, visit:$file/KIRBY_ASR2011.pdf.