High STI rate identified in Bendigo region

SEXUALLY transmissible infections are more common among young people in rural areas, according to a recent state government report.

The recently released The State of Victoria’s Children report reveals in 2010 there were 4.2 diagnosed infections per 1000 rural teenagers, compared to 2.3 in Melbourne.

The highest rates of STIs are in the Barwon South Western Region and rates in Loddon Mallee are also notably high.

Bendigo Community Health Services CEO Kim Skyes said the statistics reflected what was happening in Bendigo.

“We know that we do have a high rate of STDs in our young population and chlamydia, particularly, in our area,” she said.

“We’re seeing young males coming in now with quite a high prevalence of chlamydia.

“What it does highlight is the need for not only treating it, the chlamydia, but also a need to make sure that people really understand safe sex.

“People sometimes feel safe because they’re using contraception but most forms of contraception don’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections.”

The report highlights that contracting a STI can have adverse effects on sexual and reproductive health, including the development of cervical cancer, infertility and recurrent pain.

“Young people are more vulnerable because they’re often not in a steady relationship so they hadn’t yet made decisions about life partners and they’re often attracted to people they don’t know all that well,” Ms Sykes said.

Early last year the Bendigo Loddon Primary Care Partnership’s Sexual Health Task Group last year hosted SHAM – Sexual Health Awareness Month.

The slogan of the preventative health campaign was “Don’t be SHHY... Sexual health, how’s yours?” and was designed to get people talking to both their doctors and sex partners.

“Initiatives like this are certainly something the community can get behind,” Ms Sykes said. 

“Sometimes it’s hard for a lot of people to talk about sex with someone young and particularly things such as use of condoms, so maybe it’s about trying to make that more common so we can really raise that awareness and even to help parents and others in finding a way they can talk to their kids about it – perhaps before the kids are sexually active so it’s easier to have that conversation and the kids are less embarrassed by it.

“There’s school programs, we assist with that – we will go into schools, sexual health nurses will go there. And we’re also starting to run a range of programs through headspace as well – just to make sure we reach as many people as we can.

“Our community GPs certainly are highly attuned to this issue so they take the opportunity if they can, when someone comes in with whatever issues, to introduce this subject then they will talk about sexual health, mental health and a range of issues.”

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