Victoria has recorded an unprecedented zero diagnoses of chlamydia during June, as cases of sexually transmitted infections have plummeted nationally.
Australian health department data show that chlamydia in particular is at an all-time low in various states, and syphilis and gonorrhoea diagnoses have also decreased.
Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) clinical advisor Dr Vincent Cornelisse said that sexual health testing remains crucial, however.
“This does not mean that everyone has stopped having sex with casual partners, and hence we need to ensure that people continue to have access to sexual health services,” Dr Cornelisse said.
“It is difficult to interpret these data with certainty.
“We don’t know to what extent these lower STI rates are due to lower rates of transmission or lower rates of screening, or a combination of these factors.”
Dr Cornelisse noted that infections such as chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhoea frequently show no symptoms and are most often detected during routine sexual health screening.
He encouraged anyone who is either experiencing symptoms or due for a checkup (between annually and quarterly for most people) to seek sexual health testing.
“Also, anyone who may be at risk of HIV is advised consider starting HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to reduce their risk of HIV, and I would encourage them to discuss this with their regular GP or their local sexual health service,” said Dr Cornelisse.
In addition to GP clinic testing, sexual health testing in Australia is available through LGBTIQ health services and sexual health clinics, often free of charge.
PrEP is now available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme at a subsidised price for Medicare card holders, and sexual health services can advise others on how to access it affordably.