For the first time, federal and state governments will commit to work towards eliminating syphilis in Indigenous communities.
The Minister for Indigenous Health, Rural and Regional Health and Regional Services Delivery, Warren Snowdon, has launched the third National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategy.
There are fewer than 200 notifications of infectious syphilis a year reported from mostly remote Aboriginal communities.
"Now is the right time to achieve this target. It's the right public health measure to be striving towards," says the principal author of the new strategy, James Ward, program head of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Program at UNSW's National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research.
The strategy includes approaches to reducing morbidity and mortality related to blood-borne viruses and sexually transmitted infections, including gonorrhoea, Chlamydia, HIV and viral hepatitis.
Gonorrhoea is 36 times more prevalent in Indigenous communities than in non-Indigenous communities. Chlamydia is six times more common.
There are four priority areas of the new strategy including annual testing, treatment and follow-up for bacterial STIs of sexually active youth; increased efforts in the primary prevention to reduce the numbers of new cases of HIV and viral hepatitis among those who inject drugs; and competent, supported health workforces across all jurisdictions.
The strategy is one of a suite of five that aim to reduce the transmission of STIs and blood-borne viruses in Australia from 2010-2013. They are available through the Department of Health.
Contacts: Mr James Ward 0434 149 714 or Susi Hamilton, UNSW media, 9385 1583 or 0422 934 024.