Saturday, January 23, 2016

Sexually Transmissible Infections in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander People

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people represent 3% of the Australian population, of which more than two-thirds are less than 34 years of age.1The Indigenous population is considerably diverse, socially, culturally and geographically, providing a challenging environment to deliver culturally appropriate and accessible healthcare services.2

Despite improvements in health outcomes, disparities between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations are evident and occur for a range of health issues, including sexual health.3 Indigenous people continue to be disproportionately represented in the sexually transmissible infections (STI) notification data, particularly in younger age groups residing in remote locations.

Notification data, for selected STIs, extracted from the Nationally Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS) as at 17 September 2015 were used for the analyses. HIV notification data, collected through the National HIV Registry, were sourced from the 2015 annual surveillance reports from the Kirby Institute.4

Case identification
For the purposes of this report, notifications with an Indigenous status field reported as not Indigenous or blank/unknown were considered to be non-Indigenous. In interpreting these data it is important to note that changes in notifications over time may not solely reflect changes in disease prevalence. Changes in screening programs,5, 6 the use of less invasive and more sensitive diagnostic tests7 and periodic public awareness campaigns8 may influence the number of notifications that occur over time. Rates for STIs are particularly susceptible to overall rates of testing.9 As a priority and ‘at risk’ population, Indigenous people are commonly targeted for STI screening often resulting in a higher number of reported cases.

In 2014, the notification rates for chlamydia, infectious syphilis and gonococcal infections in the Indigenous population were 3, 4 and 18 times higher respectively than the non-Indigenous population (Table, Figures 1–3).

Below:  Notifications and notification rate (unadjusted) for chlamydia, 2011 to 2014, by year and Indigenous status

Below:  Notifications and notification rate (unadjusted) gonococcal infection, 2011 to 2014, by year and Indigenous status

Below:  Notification rate (unadjusted) for infectious syphilis and number of congenital syphilis cases, by year and Indigenous status, 2011 to 2014

Full article at:

By:  Bright A1.
  • 1Office of Health Protection, Australian Government Department of Health, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory.

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