The last decade has seen record increases in sexually transmissible infections (STIs) such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis, here in Victoria and across Australia. For the first time since 2004, congenital syphilis has re-emerged in Victoria with two cases reported in 2017 and two cases reported in 2018, which included two foetal deaths. That’s why this STI Testing Week, 8-14 September 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services is encouraging all Victorians to continue talking about STIs, to get tested and seek treatment.
STI Testing Week – with the theme Talk, Test, Treat – is a timely reminder for anyone that is sexually active to take action to look after their own sexual health and help stop the spread of STIs.
Doctors, nurses and healthcare workers play a vital role in improving sexual health literacy and normalising STI testing in the community, including encouraging patients to look after their sexual health leading up to and during pregnancy. Healthcare workers can also support patients to notify sexual partners of possible exposures to an STI, if needed, through the ‘Let Them Know’ and Drama Down Under websites.
You can encourage your patients to speak honestly about their sexual history and behaviours, and help them manage and reduce these risks. You can also determine which tests to conduct and how often.
There are a number of resources to help health professionals integrate STI prevention, testing and treatment into routine patient care and build workforce capacity to improve timely STI management.
The Victorian HIV and Hepatitis Integrated Training And Learning (VHHITAL) training program includes training on the diagnosis, treatment and management of STIs, particularly in at-risk populations. Delivered across Victoria, the VHHITAL STI training program includes STI testing, results and treatment, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV, clinical health pathways and partner management.
The Centre for Excellence in Rural Sexual Health has a range of free online learning modules for general practitioners and other health and allied rural professionals. Focussed on the practical aspects of sexual health care, the modules include sexual health history taking, STI management, and a module specifically focussed on syphilis, including antenatal care.
Family Planning Victoria offers a range of reproductive and sexual health training courses, with variable delivery modes, including relationship and sexuality education, supporting the sexual health needs of young people and people with cognitive disability.
For more information about STI Testing Week visit betterhealth.vic.gov.au/STI
With the Department of Health and Human Services Victoria.