Training to support clinicians in the fight against syphilis

  17 May 2023  NWMPHN   

Rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are continuing to rise dramatically across Victoria, data from the Victorian Department of Health shows.

The data shows the highest rate of syphilis infection in more than 30 years.

Cases have surged in Victoria, rising from 654 detected in 2014 to 1695 in 2022. In 2023 there have already been 652 notifications. The disease is particularly prevalent among heterosexual men and women in Melbourne’s south-east and outer west areas.

Through early detection and effective treatment of syphilis, its devastating consequences can be avoided.

The Victorian HIV and Hepatitis Integrated Training And Learning (VHHITAL) program is helping GPs and other primary care clinicians by offering comprehensive training on how to test, treat, and manage STIs in everyday practice.

An event called Syphilis: Advanced Webinar for Primary Care, coming up on 30 May, will provide the skills and resources needed for primary health care practitioners to confidently implement guideline-based management of patients diagnosed with syphilis. This will enable improved patient outcomes.

The event will be presented by Melbourne Sexual Health Centre physician Dr Melanie Bissessor. You can sign up here.

Other STI-focused webinars include:

  • Treatment of Antimicrobial Resistant STIs: Mycoplasma genitalium, Gonorrhoea and Others6 June
  • STI Community of Practice20 June
  • STI Essentials for Primary Care18 July

These sessions are free and open to GPs, nurses and other staff in general practice.

What are VHHITAL consortium members up to?

New support tool for sexual health testing

A new interactive syphilis decision making tool has been released by the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) to support clinicians through testing and treating.

Through integrating this tool into routine clinical practice, primary care professionals can interpret test results and decide on the best treatment approach for their patients, making care more effective, accurate and easy.

Better together: new testing network

Alfred Health has also launched the Victorian Sexual Health Network – a network of six bulk-billed GP sexual health clinics that makes STI testing and treatment services more accessible to local communities.

Building new ways to diagnose

Researchers at the Doherty Institute are using whole genome sequencing to improve diagnostic testing for STIs.

The research aims to overcome a major barrier to rapid diagnosis – the fact that some infections, such as Treponema pallidum and Mycoplasma genitalium, can’t be cultured in the lab.

More details here.

Other resources

For an overview of the most common STIs, clinicians can access VHHITAL’s introductory training videos.

For further information about STI and blood borne viruses workforce development, please contact