Sexually Transmissible Infections
The prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among ACT young people.
What do we measure?
The number of notifications of HIV, Gonorrhoea, Chlamydia and Syphilis reported to the ACT Notifiable Diseases Database attributed to persons under the age of 25 in the ACT.
Why is this important?
National surveillance data indicates that high levels of STIs continue to occur in Australia and are increasing in many priority populations.23 Young people are recognised as a priority population across the five National Strategies for blood-borne viruses (BBV) and STIs (the National Strategies), as well as in the Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV and sexually transmissible infections ACT Statement of Priorities 2016-2020 (ACT Statement of Priorities).
Young people aged less than 30 are generally disproportionately affected by STIs compared to other age groups.24 Chlamydia remains the most commonly notified STI in Australia, with 75.0 per cent of notifications in 2016 occurring in 15-29 year olds. Similarly, most notifications of gonorrhoea in 2016 were in the 20-24 year age group for both males and females.25
Notification data for STIs must be interpreted with caution. While notification data is useful to monitor trends and provide an indication of transmission in the community, notification data can be largely influenced by access to health care and testing practices and are likely to under-represent the true incidence of disease in the population.
Information from this indicator can help to inform the development of government policies about services and initiatives that are effective in promoting a positive and respectful approach to sexual health and wellbeing for young people in the ACT.
Disease notifications data are regularly reviewed to identify any changes in disease patterns or emerging risk factor trends. This information is then used to inform and target specific communication, prevention, and promotional activities. For example, the Chief Health Officer wrote to all ACT GPs in March 2018 advising of an increase in the incidence of gonorrhoea, particularly among young women.
It is, however, difficult to use notification data as a measure of success of government policies, services and initiatives related to the sexual health of young people in the ACT. Disease notifications can be influenced by a number of factors, predominantly testing practices. A decrease in disease notification numbers may be a reflection of a decrease in testing, and not necessarily be due to a decrease in disease transmission in the community.
ACT Health continues to work collaboratively with a number of government and community stakeholders to address issues related to STIs and BBVs in young people, and to assist with achieving the objectives of the ACT Statement of Priorities which includes prevention, testing, and surveillance of STIs and BBVs.
One program that is specifically targeted at young people in the ACT is Sexual Health, Lifestyle and Relationships Program (SHLiRP). SHLiRP is a health promotion collaboration between Canberra Sexual Health Centre and Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT (SHFPACT) that has been operating in ACT Government secondary schools in the ACT since 2002. The program provides accessible sexual health information and screening to students and encourages health-seeking behaviour by students on an ongoing basis. SHFPACT and SHLiRP are funded by ACT Health.
How is the ACT Progressing?
Source: ACT Notifiable Diseases Database. Data are subject to change.
Note Syphilis and HIV data is not reported due to small numbers.
In the ACT, STI notifications in those aged under 25 years have remained relatively stable. Chlamydia remains the most commonly notified STI in the ACT, with notifications in those aged less than 25 years decreasing slightly between 2014 and 2016.
The number of gonorrhoea notifications in those aged under 25 years increased over the last five years, however this trend is consistent across all age groups and with an overall increasing trend nationally.
23 Australian Government Department of Health 2014, Third National Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategy, p.3.
24 The Kirby Institute 2014, HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia: Annual Surveillance Report 2014, p.8 and p.16, University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney.
25 The Kirby Institute 2017, HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia: Annual Surveillance Report 2017, UNSW, Sydney.