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Testing drop prompts Victorian STI concern

A “concerning” drop in testing for sexually transmissible infections brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has prompted an urgent warning from Victorian health authorities.New data from the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre has revealed a 68 per cent decrease in people without symptoms seeking testing for sexually transmissible infections (STI) this year.There has also been a…

A “concerning” drop in testing for sexually transmissible infections brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has prompted an urgent warning from Victorian health authorities.

New data from the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre has revealed a 68 per cent decrease in people without symptoms seeking testing for sexually transmissible infections (STI) this year.

There has also been a 20 per cent fall in STI notifications in Victoria between January and September that health officials believe is likely due to people delaying health checks during the pandemic.

Health Minister Martin Foley said “STIs don’t discriminate” and urged people who were sexually active to get a check once a year.

“Many STIs have no signs or symptoms,” he said.

“Anyone who is sexually active, regardless of their age or background can contract them.

“That’s why as we move towards COVID normal everyone needs to take the necessary precautions and get tested.”

It’s estimated that about one in every six people will contract an STI throughout their lifetime but most won’t even know it.

Health authorities warned STIs were on the rise due to changing sexual behaviour, persistent stigma, decreasing and inconsistent condom use, migration and social media networking.

Mr Foley also urged people starting a family to get tested for STIs to prevent passing on a possible syphilis infection that, if untreated in women, can cause miscarriage, serious birth defects and stillbirth.

“We are urging women and their partners to have an STI check before and during pregnancy,” he said.

“This can stop women from passing on the syphilis infection to their babies and prevent complications including tragic stillbirths.”

There has been a 475 per cent increase in infectious syphilis cases in Victoria since 2010. Tragically, there have also been three deaths.

This week marks STI Testing Week, with testing available at a local GP, family planning clinics, Aboriginal community controlled health organisations, community health services and specialist sexual health clinics.

Most STIs are curable with the right treatment but can cause long-term damage, including infertility, if left untreated.

jack.paynter@news.com.au

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