Just like in any other country, sexually transmitted diseases are a topic that most people would rather not discuss in Australia. However, this does not negate from their prevalence. The tragic truth is that, despite their ability to affect across all sectors of humanity, carriers of sexually transmitted diseases also carry a stigma of promiscuity. It is important that this stigma be eliminated so that education, and prevention methods, can be accessed without fear. Without treatment, their cycle will increase. As will be explained, Australia has been an example of a country that has both happening: certain diseases being treated nearly into oblivion, while others increase with alarming quickness.
The most common of all sexually transmitted diseases in Australia is chlamydia. Genital herpes is another common STD in the country. This is due to its easily contractable nature. Genital herpes may be spread from sexual intercourse, kissing, or other forms of foreplay. Gonorrhea, while less common, can be more concerning. This is due to the fact that many carriers do not exhibit any symptoms, increasing the chance that they will unknowingly spread the disease.
There are 6 main sexually transmitted diseases that officials in Australia track the rate of occurrences for: HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and chlamydia. Australia experienced drastic increases in the occurrences of different diseases during the late 1990 ‘s and 2000 ‘s. For example, chlamydia increased from just 74 people in 100,000 during 1999 to 363 people in 100,000 (over 5x increase) in 2011. Another alarming increase was the rate of gonorrhea. From 2009-2017 alone, the disease prevalence tripled: from 36 in 100,000 to 118 in 100,000. Of all of these HIV is the least common, only afflicting on average 4.1 to 4.6 people in 100,000 in the country (this is an average over the last 10 years). The second least common is syphilis, which has stayed relatively steady throughout the years occurring between 10 and 26 in every 100,000 (AIHW, 2018). While these are obviously uncommon, their existence in itself is concerning.
Luckily, the rates of not every sexually transmitted disease have gone up. The occurrences of both Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C have gone done in recent decades. From 1996 to 2003, the rate of Hepatitis B went down from 44 to 31 in 100,000. They have continued to decline to a current state of 25 in 100,000. That ‘s almost a 50% decrease. Hepatitis C went down from 102 to 64 in 100,000 from the period 1996 to 2004. This disease has also continued to decline, just not as drastically: its current rate of occurrence stands at 44 per 100,000 people. This illustrates that, with proper education and safety precautions, sexually transmitted diseases can be nearly (if not completely) eradicated.
The good news is that there are things you can do to decrease your chance of getting any sexually contracted diseases. Safe sex is a common topic. Most people are referring to the use of condoms during intercourse when referencing this topic. Other methods can also be used to help keep one safe, though. Another suggestion that is heard less likely is the avoidance of sharing any towels and/or undergarments. Another easy method to utilize, but that is effective, is washing before and after every intercourse encounter. One should get vaccines for the diseases that have one available: Hepatitis B is the most common. Lastly, get tested regularly and do not be afraid to talk to your healthcare provider about anything suspicious or concerning: they have seen it all anyways! By combining all of these methods, you can greatly increase your chance of protecting yourself and loved ones from sexually transmitted diseases.
If you have any concerns about your current sexual health status and are too embarrassed to ask a health professional, there are accurate at-home std test kits that can be purchased online. In Australia, there are several websites dedicated to serving the region. There are also many websites with anonymous chat-services available that will allow you to talk to a healthcare professional. It is important that you know the status of your sexual health so that you can avoid the long-term consequences of leaving it untreated, as well as not risk spreading it to others and loved ones. It is important to always keep yourself safe from those things that are preventable, since there are already so many others that are not.
AIHW. (2018, Jun 20). Incidence of sexually transmissible infections and blood-borne viruses. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/australias-health-2018/contents/table-of-contents
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