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COVID-19 lockdown rules fuels significant drop in Australia’s sexually transmitted infections

Australia’s COVID-19 lockdown has fueled a significant drop in sexually transmitted infections, research shows. 

Chlamydia is at an all-time low, with the latest Australian Government Department of Health data showing figures for January to June are the lowest in a decade.

There were 37,582 positive tests for the STI in this period – down from 54,485 in 2019, 53,965 in 2018 and 60,687 in 2017.

The figure also beats the 37,9237 positive tests from January to June nationwide in 2010. 

Chlamydia is at an all-time low, with the latest Australian Government Department of Health data showing figures for January to June are the lowest in a decade

Chlamydia is at an all-time low, with the latest Australian Government Department of Health data showing figures for January to June are the lowest in a decade

Chlamydia is at an all-time low, with the latest Australian Government Department of Health data showing figures for January to June are the lowest in a decade

Victoria was the only state to have zero positive tests in June. 

The data shows 113 people tested positive to Chlamydia in the Australian Capital Territory, down 31 from same time in 2019, along with 1994 in New South Wale, down 495, and 1852 in Queensland, down 54.

One hundred and forty-nine tested positive in the Northern Territory, down 82, 444 in South Australia, down 64, 117 in Tasmania, down three, and 849 in Western Australia, down 22. 

Its figure was down 2037 from the same month the year before. 

Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) clinical advisor Dr Vincent Cornelisse said it was easy to assume the drop in Chlamydia reflected people having less sex with casual partners during lockdown than prior to COVID-19.

‘However, this does not mean that everyone has stopped having sex with casual partners, and hence we need to ensure that people continue to have access to sexual health services,’ he said. 

‘It is difficult to interpret these data with certainty.’ 

It could also reflect a lower number of clients going in for screenings at STI services, Dr Corneilsse said. 

Sexually transmitted infections (STI) in Australia for June 2020, according to the Australian Government Department of Health
STIs  ACT  NSW  NT  QLD  SA  TAS  VIC  WA STATE TOTAL  YEAR TOTAL 
Chlamydial infection 113  1994  149 1852  444  117  0 849   5518 37582 
Gonococcal infection  14  809 106  582  150  238  291  2198  15970 
Syphilis < 2 years  0 91 22  81  51  58  308  2296 
Syphilis > 2 years  1 18  142  20  199  1417 
Syphilis congenital  0 1 1

‘So we don’t know to what extent these lower STI rates are due to lower rates of transmission or lower rates of screening, or a combination of these factors,’ he said.

‘This is particularly difficult for Chlamydia infections, as most Chlamydia infections are not symptomatic, and hence often only detected when people have a routine asymptomatic STI screen. 

‘Similarly, Syphilis and Gonorrhoea are often detected in people who have no symptoms and who have a routine blood test for Syphilis, or a throat or anal swab for Gonorrhoea.’

For Gonorrhoea and Syphilis (< two years), the department’s data shows January to June infections have dropped across the country as well.

ASHM clinical advisor Dr Vincent Cornelisse said 'Syphilis and Gonorrhoea are often detected in people who have no symptoms' so a blood test, or throat or anal swab, is necessary

ASHM clinical advisor Dr Vincent Cornelisse said 'Syphilis and Gonorrhoea are often detected in people who have no symptoms' so a blood test, or throat or anal swab, is necessary

ASHM clinical advisor Dr Vincent Cornelisse said ‘Syphilis and Gonorrhoea are often detected in people who have no symptoms’ so a blood test, or throat or anal swab, is necessary

There were 15,970 Gonorrhoea positive tests this year – down from 17,488 in 2019.  

There were 14 positive tests in the ACT, down 16 for the same period in 2019, for the month of June, along with 809 in NSW, down 57, 106 in the NT, down one, 582 in QLD, up 162, 150 in SA, down 27, eight in TAS, up one, 238 in Victoria, down 437, and 291 in WA, down 17. 

For Syphilis (< two years), 2,296 cases nationwide were recorded between January to June – down from 2,900 in 2019.

There were zero cases recorded in the ACT in June, down four, 91 in NSW, down 56, 22 in the NT, down six, 81 in QLD, down four, four in SA, down 2, one in TAS, up one, 51 in Victoria, down 92, and 58 in WA, up 10.

ASHM clinical advisor Dr Vincent Cornelisse (pictured) said it was 'difficult to interpret these data with certainty' as the low figures could be a combination of factors

ASHM clinical advisor Dr Vincent Cornelisse (pictured) said it was 'difficult to interpret these data with certainty' as the low figures could be a combination of factors

ASHM clinical advisor Dr Vincent Cornelisse (pictured) said it was ‘difficult to interpret these data with certainty’ as the low figures could be a combination of factors

Looking to the future, Dr Corneilsse said STI and HIV rates were being monitored closely.

‘Over time we will have a better idea of what is actually happening with STI and HIV rates,’ he said. 

Dr Corneilsse encouraged Australians with STI symptoms, or who are due for a screening, to seek medical attention.

‘Also, anyone who may be at risk of HIV is advised consider starting HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to reduce their risk of HIV, and I would encourage them to discuss this with their regular GP or their local sexual health service,’ he said.

‘It is possible to arrange HIV/STI testing and PrEP using telehealth arrangements.’

ASHM clinical advisor Dr Vincent Cornelisse (pictured) said the drop in Chlamydia reflected people having less sex with casual partners during lockdown than prior to COVID-19

ASHM clinical advisor Dr Vincent Cornelisse (pictured) said the drop in Chlamydia reflected people having less sex with casual partners during lockdown than prior to COVID-19

ASHM clinical advisor Dr Vincent Cornelisse (pictured) said the drop in Chlamydia reflected people having less sex with casual partners during lockdown than prior to COVID-19

ASHM clinical advisor Dr Vincent Cornelisse encouraged Australians with STI symptoms, or who are due for a screening or are at risk of HIV, to seek medical attention

ASHM clinical advisor Dr Vincent Cornelisse encouraged Australians with STI symptoms, or who are due for a screening or are at risk of HIV, to seek medical attention

ASHM clinical advisor Dr Vincent Cornelisse encouraged Australians with STI symptoms, or who are due for a screening or are at risk of HIV, to seek medical attention

Source: Daily Mail Australia | News Colony

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