When Adam Casey heard the news this week that HIV rates had gone up significantly for the first time in five years in Australia, he was not surprised.
The 26-year-old is a peer educator with a youth sexual health promotion group called YEAH, and he knows just how confused many young Australians are about sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
"So I was not surprised by the increase, but I was surprised how big it was [at 8 per cent]," he says.
Casey, a self-described "sexual health nerd", volunteers at music festivals, uni bars and schools, teaching others about STIs as well as promoting the idea that condom use can be fun.
It's the sexed-up equivalent of the old-fashioned condom demonstration on a banana, Casey says.
"We have got these crazy big red dongs we take with us … that look like alien penises," he says. "We call them 'big red'. The idea is to get people laughing, but with us, not at us".
Casey sees a range of misconceptions, from people believing they can't have an STI without having severe and obvious symptoms, to thinking testing will be painful.
It is estimated that one in 20 Australians aged 15 to 29 have an STI, and rates are increasing.
In the first three months of this year alone, almost 22,500 people around the country received a call from their doctor telling them they had chlamydia. A further 3600 were told they had gonorrhoea, and 500 more received the news they had syphilis, many of whom had carried the bug, undiagnosed, for more than two years.
Each and every person likely felt some embarrassment, even shock, when they received their diagnosis. Many will never go on to tell the sexual partners they could potentially have infected.
And so the spread continues.
The problem is Australia is not talking about sex, even though we are better educated about it than ever before, says Professor Alan McKee, the leader of the promoting healthy sexual development research group at Queensland University of Technology.
He is leading a project interviewing 14 to 16-year-olds about safe sex, and presented his early findings at the International Union Against Sexually Transmitted Infections world congress in Melbourne this week.
"Young people now have better knowledge about sexual health than GPs did when I was a boy," he says. "But they are not … putting it into practise".
He says this is because no one is teaching them how to talk about sex, what to expect and how to negotiate sexual encounters. Parents are too embarrassed, and schools provide technical, scientific information.
Many of the teenagers described feeling sex was only OK if it was drunken or unplanned in some way.
"It's better for them to have sex accidentally than to prepare for it, because if you buy condoms it means you are planning to have sex and so you are planning to do something bad," he says.
McKee believes parents and schools are afraid to provide honest information because of a "hysteria about child sexualisation".
"But if you talk about it with kids they actually put it off for longer," he says. "The research from around the world is absolutely consistent, there's nothing challenging it. Young people who know more about sex … have better sexual health outcomes and lower rates of STIs.''
And McKee argues it needs to start young, with parents giving completely honest answers to sexual questions asked by children, no matter what their age.
"You start answering your kids' questions honestly and in appropriate language from the moment they start asking, and you don't make a big deal about it," he says. "If your child asks you where babies come from, you need to tell them that a man puts his penis in a vagina."
If most Australians are uncomfortable talking about the ins and outs of sexual encounters, the medical director of Family Planning NSW, Dr Deborah Bateson, is proud to buck the trend. "I'm always happy to talk about condoms," she says when the Herald calls.
Bateson says parents might not be teaching their children how to navigate safe sexual encounters because it's not something they are comfortable with themselves.
She has found more adults are visiting family planning clinics worried about their sexual health.
"We were seeing women in their 40s, 50s and sometimes 60s coming into our clinics and asking for a test for STIs," she says.
She conducted a study of women using the Fairfax-owned RSVP dating site, and found women aged over 40 were significantly more likely to agree to having casual sex without a condom than younger women.
But she says the burden of increased STIs in Australia still rests with young people, and the increased diagnoses are likely just "the tip of the iceberg".
Bateson says both older and younger groups missed the fear of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Generation Y and Z missed it because they grew up without the Grim Reaper knocking at their bedroom door, and many baby boomers because they were in monogamous relationships during the scare.
While she doesn't advocate a return to scare campaigns, she agrees people need to be better educated about condom use.
"I still use a banana," she says. "I keep one in my drawer!"