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Mixed report on Australia's sexual health

AAP logoAAP 13/11/2016 Sarah Wiedersehn

Chlamydia is on the rise and the HIV infection rate among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is at an all-time high but remains stable for non-indigenous Australians, according to the latest report card on the country's sexual health.

The 2016 Australian Annual Surveillance report into sexually transmissible infections and blood-borne viruses, released by the Kirby Institute on Monday, has found the rate of chlamydia notification increased steadily between 2006 and 2011.

Around one in 20 young Aussies now have the sexually transmitted infection, with more than 66,000 notifications of chlamydia made in 2015.

The majority, 77 per cent, were 15 to 29 years old.

Worryingly, most Australians don't even know they have the common STI.

According to the report, 72 per cent of new infections in young people were undiagnosed and therefore untreated.

The rate of new cases of HIV remained stable, with 1025 new cases reported at the end of 2015.

Sexual contact between men continued to be the main mode of transmission of HIV in Australia, accounting for 68 per cent of notifications in 2015.

However, the rate of HIV infection among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men is now more than double the rate for non-indigenous Australians.

Other sexually transmissible infections in indigenous Australians such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and infectious syphilis are on average 3, 10 and 6 times higher respectively, with hepatitis C 4 times higher, according to the report.

Associate Professor James Ward from the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute says this "unacceptable" gap between the sexual health of indigenous and non-indigenous Australians is an "international embarrassment".

"At a time when Australia is showered in praise for being a world leader in HIV and hepatitis C prevention, one of our priority populations is being left behind."

He says these statistics cannot be ignored and effective HIV programs and clinics must be delivered to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

"This is going to require proper consultation, targeted campaigns and investment in health worker education," Prof Ward says.

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