Gonorrhea, syphilis cases rise in Bendigo

Condoms and other barrier protections can help reduce a person's risk of catching most STIs. Picture: File photo.
Condoms and other barrier protections can help reduce a person's risk of catching most STIs. Picture: File photo.

The number of people infected with gonorrhea or syphilis in Bendigo has more than tripled this year, with sexually transmissible infection rates on the rise across the wider Loddon Mallee region.

The Department of Health and Human Services figures show more than 30 cases of gonorrhea have been reported in the City of Greater Bendigo up until May 15 this year and 11 cases of syphilis. 

At the same time last year, only 8 cases of gonorrhea had been reported – a jump of more than 280 per cent. No syphilis cases had been reported by this time in 2016.

Bendigo Community Health Services clinical nurse consultant Louise Holland said at their clinic they hadn’t seen any increase in syphilis cases but they had with gonorrhea, with a greater number of men accessing their sexual health services.

“With the increase in numbers we’ve noticed more men being diagnosed positive with gonorrhea,” she said.

Ms Holland, who specialises in sexual and reproductive health, said in the last 12 to 18 months they had seen more people being referred on to specialist services at Bendigo Health.

“Gonorrhea has increased in the statistics across Loddon Mallee and Victoria but it is chlamydia that we are wanting people to be aware of,” she said.

“Chlamydia is still by far the most common STI that’s transmitted between sexual partners.”

Ms Holland stressed the importance of testing and having regular sexual health checks as the vast majority of people who tested positive had no symptoms.

“Chlamydia is very treatable and is easily tested for, but the biggest issue is that people aren’t aware they have it and are able to pass it on,” she said.

The Department of Health and Human Services was unable to provide information on the number of chlamydia cases reported in 2017.  

Greater Bendigo accounted for half of the gonorrhea cases reported to the department this year in the Loddon Mallee – a region which stretches across 10 local government areas in the north west of the state.

Cases of the infection have almost doubled in the Loddon Mallee region and by almost 30 per cent statewide in comparison to this time last year.

Syphilis cases in the Loddon Mallee are six times higher than they were at May 15 in 2016, and 23 per cent up across the state.

Ms Holland said there was a lot of misinformation about and people needed to access the correct information to make the right health choices.

She said a patient’s information was kept confidential and if there was a positive diagnosis, it would be managed in a sensitive way.

“People worry about it and they come in and are often greatly relieved that they aren’t at risk of STIs that they thought they would be,” she said.

“We encourage people to come in and have a chat.”

More information on STIs and reducing your risk of catching them can be found here.