SEX THREAT: Hundreds catch diseases from love-making
A TRIPLE threat of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis is on the march across Gympie and the Sunshine Coast with almost 900 local cases of sexually transmitted and blood-borne diseases reported to the state's health bosses in the past seven months.
Chlamydia is the most virulent sexually transmitted infection in our region and the number of Gympie residents infected with the "silent" disease could be three times higher than official data shows.
NewsRegional analysis of Queensland Health statistics shows 773 new notifications of chlamydia since January 1 across the Sunshine Coast health district that covers Gympie and Noosa.
In the same period, our region recorded 102 cases of gonorrhea and 19 of syphilis.
Hepatitis C is the region's most common blood-borne virus with 67 notifications in 2017.
There were 17 hep B transmissions and two HIV notifications.
Chlamydia is known as the "silent infection" because symptoms are rare, but if left untreated it can cause chronic pain and infertility in women.
STI expert Professor Basil Donovan warned our region's young sexually active residents to get tested for chlamydia.
"We're only actually diagnosing a quarter of the number of cases of chlamydia because we are only testing about 10% of young people each year," the UNSW Kirby Institute Sexual Health Program head said.
"Kids are embarrassed to go to the doctor and often the doctors are embarrassed to ask about it."
Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service Sexual Health and HIV Service clinical director Dr Kuong Taing said the data showed transmission rates were stable but there was still cause for concern.
"Chlamydia is one of the most common STIs and one of the most common notifiable STIs in Australia and this is reflected in the region," Dr Taing said.
"This is because individuals with chlamydia infection may have no symptoms, or minimal symptoms, and not seek treatment while continuing to have unprotected sexual contact leading to the spread of the infection.
"People who are sexually active should get regular STI screens and treated quickly if infected, contact sexual partners to come for testing and treatment, should practise safer sex (condoms) to avoid catching STIs, especially with casual partners."
Queensland Q-PrEPd HIV Prevention Trial operational manager Simon Doyle-Adams said removing the stigma associated with sexually transmitted diseases and making treatment easily accessible would reduce transmission significantly.
"Regular screening and offering new treatments and preventions is the key," Mr Doyle-Adams said.
The State Government's $62 million Queensland Sexual Health Strategy 2016-2021 aims to reduce transmission rates of STIs and blood-borne diseases.
About $5.27 million will be spent promoting safe sex across the state with $3.7 million of that allocated to regional sexual health services.
"The Queensland Government is aware of increasing numbers of sexually transmissible infections and blood-borne viruses," a Department of Health spokesman said.
Don't let 'stigma, fear or embarrassment' stop hepatitis testing, treatment
GYMPIE drug users are at most risk of getting hepatitis C.
In the past seven months, 85 Gympie and Sunshine Coast residents have been infected with hepatitis C and B.
Hepatitis C is the most common blood-borne virus in our region and is often spread by injecting drug users, sharing of shaving equipment and occasionally through sex.
Antiviral medications can eliminate hep C in 12 weeks and there is a vaccine for hep B.
"A large number of intravenous drug users share needles, syringes and paraphernalia," Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service Sexual Health and HIV Service clinical director Dr Kuong Taing said.
"The number of new infections is decreasing.
"This is attributed to better health promotion (and) users are more aware of the need for safe injection and tattooing practices."
Hepatitis Queensland CEO Michelle Kudell said early detection could save local residents from deadly liver complications.
"We cannot allow ourselves to be stymied by unwarranted stigma, fear or embarrassment," Ms Kudell said.
"Game-changing hepatitis C treatments, an effective vaccine and treatments to prevent and control hepatitis B and quick and painless diagnostic and liver health tests are already available as we work towards elimination of these viruses.
"Yet we are in the unbelievable position where many people remain undiagnosed and only a small proportion are currently accessing and receiving the treatment they need."
HOW TO TELL IF YOU HAVE
In women, if symptoms are present, they may include:
- An unusual vaginal discharge
- A burning feeling when urinating
- Pain during sex
- Bleeding or spotting between periods or bleeding after sex
- Lower abdominal pain.
In men, if symptoms are present, they may include:
- A discharge from the penis
- Discomfort when urinating
- Swollen and sore testes.
- If left untreated, chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women and that can lead to chronic pain and infertility. In men, it can cause pain and swelling in one or both testicles.
- If detected early, chlamydia can be treated with a single dose of antibiotics.
- Discharge from the vagina or penis
- Pain or burning while urinating
- Swelling and pain in the testicles
- It may occur without symptoms, especially in women.
- Gonorrhea can lead to infertility in women.
- Use condoms (male and female) and dental dams to prevent gonorrhea infection.
- Sore or ulcer on the penis or vagina, anus or mouth
- A flat red skin rash on the feet, hands or the entire body.
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Hair loss
- Pain in the joints
- Flu symptoms
- If not treated, this disease can lead to severe brain and heart complications five to 20 years after contraction.
- There are three stages of syphilis. The first two stages are infectious.
- Syphilis is curable but, if left untreated, syphilis can lead to serious complications.
- A simple blood test can detect syphilis.
- Mild to severe tiredness
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Soreness in the upper right side of the stomach (under the ribs)
- Increased moodiness and depression
- Joint pain or swelling
- In Australia, hepatitis C is most often spread through the sharing of unsterile drug injecting equipment.
- New all-oral combination treatment has greatly improved health outcomes for people with hepatitis C.
- See your doctor immediately if you have any symptoms or if you think you have been put at risk of infection.
If you inject drugs, never share needles and syringes or other equipment such as tourniquets, spoons, swabs or water. Always use sterile needles and syringes. These are available free of charge from needle and syringe programs and some pharmacists. To find out where you can obtain free needles, syringes and other injecting equipment visit www.guild.org.au
Disclosure for all of these diseases
It is important to let your sexual partners know that you have a disease. Your local doctor and sexual health centre can help you to do this.