Get some? Get tested: Sexual health awareness after syphilis outbreak
9 May 2019
A sexually transmitted infection outbreak in Central Queensland highlights the urgent need for screening.
CQ Health’s Blood Borne Virus and Sexual Health Nurse Unit Manager Candise Bradshaw said the outbreak posed a very serious risk to the community, highlighted the need for people to have protected sex and for anyone with any concerns to be screened.
The number of cases in Central Queensland increased by 30% from 2013 to 2017. There were 26 cases reported in Central Queensland last year and 11 confirmed cases in the first quarter of 2019.
Mrs Bradshaw said the message was simple: “Get some? Get tested.”
Most of the recent syphilis cases in CQ were from two distinct groups: heterosexual Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and non-Indigenous gay men and other men who have sex with men.
“It is very important that anyone who is sexually active or engaging in high-risk behaviour is screened.
“Syphilis is highly infectious in the first two years and can present with or without symptoms,” she said.
“Syphilis can be particularly devastating for women. If not treated, women can carry the infection for up to eight years and pass on the infection to their unborn baby if they become pregnant. This can result in serious complications, and even be fatal for the baby,” she said.
Pregnant women who are at increased risk include those who:
- identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
- engage in unprotected sex
- have sexual contact with a partner infected with syphilis
Syphilis may include ulcers, usually in the genital area and can be painful or painless.
It can also include raised, wart-like lesions; a rash on the body, palms and soles of feet; patchy hair loss; and even fever and other symptoms similar to the flu.
“There are not always symptoms or warning signs. If you believe you are at risk you need to book a confidential appointment and get tested.”
Testing is a simple procedure and Point of Care testing delivers a diagnosis within 15 minutes.
“CQ Health is committed to breaking down barriers and empowering people to access free and confidential screening and treatment through increasing services and awareness,” Mrs Bradshaw said.
The Blood Borne Virus and Sexual Health Service at 92 Bolsover Street, Rockhampton, is open Monday to Friday including until 7pm every Tuesday, with male and female clinicians available.
“From 13 May we will also visit Gladstone Community Health in Flinders Street to offer monthly clinics on a Monday.”
To book a test, for information or assistance:
- Blood Borne Virus & Sexual Health Service
- Queensland Syphilis Surveillance Service (‘Syphilis Register’)
- Rockhampton Community and Public Health Service - 4920 6989