The current state of play with sexually transmitted infections
In recent years there has been a significant increase in new syphilis infections among gay men in NSW and Victoria2, with gonorrhoea also rising steadily3 and chlamydia in epidemic proportions. Research also suggests that same-sex attracted young Australians are five times more likely to have contracted an STI than their heterosexual peers.4
Our world leading response to HIV
Over the past three decades Australia has had one of the best responses to HIV in the world. In comparison to other similar countries, Australia has low rates of infection and has successfully managed to keep the epidemic largely contained to the population that was the initial point of infection. This success is due to the HIV/AIDS partnership between all levels of government and community organisations, HIV/AIDS research centres, GPs and the medical community, and the populations that are most directly affected.
The current state of play with HIV
Despite this, in Australia, as in many other countries which have similar epidemics (North America, Europe), there have been steady increases in new HIV infections in the last six years or so. Following a sustained decline in the annual rate of new HIV diagnoses that started in 1985, from 2000 onwards the rate has steadily increased, particularly in Victoria and Queensland. It is estimated that between 2000 and 2005 the number of new HIV diagnoses in Australia increased by 41%. As has been the case since the start of the epidemic, the large bulk of all new infections occur among gay and other homosexually active men.
Revitalising Australia's response
The recent increase in HIV infections across the Australia and the continued prevalence of STI among LGBTI populations demonstrates the need for a revitalisation of Australia's response to HIV and other STI. In order to do this, the Commonwealth must show leadership and a renewed commitment to improving the sexual health of LGBTI Australians.
There are a number of key initiatives that the Commonwealth should take, namely:
- A comprehensive review of the National HIV and STI strategies, including the current Commonwealth advisory structure
- Streamlining current approval processes for Commonwealth funded HIV prevention programmes
- Ensuring that the four National HIV/AIDS, STI and Hep C Research Centres have access to increased, long-term, and secured funding
- Making available a HPV vaccine to young gay men in the same age groups as young women who currently have access to a vaccine.
The Government's Ministerial Advisory Committee on Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmitted Infections reviewed national strategies in place from 2005-2008 and developed five new national strategies in 2010:
- Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Sexual Health & Blood Borne Viruses
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI)
Find out more about the national strategies and how they were developed.
Read our submission on the National STI Strategy.
- National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research (2006) 2006 Annual Surveillance Report: HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia, UNSW, Sydney, p.9
- Ibid, p.18
- Ibid, p.21
- Hillier, L.,Turner, A., & Mitchell A. (2005) Writing Themselves In Again: The 2nd National Report on the Sexual Health & Wellbeing of Same-Sex Attracted Young People in Australia, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society (ARCSHS) La Trobe University, Melbourne