Sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, seem to be running rampant in Australia.
While Queensland Health says the number of reported HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) cases in the state is climbing, health authorities of Newcastle, the port city, are warning of an alarming spike in gonorrhoea cases.
AdvertisementThere were 178 new cases of HIV reported in Queensland last year compared with 166 the year before.
Queensland's chief health officer Jeannette Young says the figures are worrying.
"That's the highest number that's ever been reported," she said.
Men made up 88 per cent of reported cases last year.
The highest notification rates were in the 25 to 34 age group.
Dr Young says the increase may be due to an aggressive campaign encouraging gay men to be tested.
However, she says now that treatments are available, people are more complacent about the importance of safe sex.
A new national HIV strategy will be considered by the Australian Health Ministers' Conference next month.
Meantime there are reports of a major increase in the number of people with Gonorrhoea in the port city of Newcastle this year. Hunter New England Health, a government agency, is urging people to have regular sexual health checks and to practise safe sex.
Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). To date there have been 41 cases for 2010 compared to 9 for the same period in 2009, 29 cases in 2008 and 13 cases in 2007.
HNE Health Director of Sexual Health Dr Treeny Ooi said the majority of people affected were young men and women in their teens or twenties.
"Men who have sex with men have been identified as a group particularly at risk however heterosexual people have also been infected," Dr Ooi said.
"Gonorrhoea often causes no symptoms and people may not be aware that they are infected. When symptoms are present, they can include discharge from the penis or vagina and pain when passing urine or during bowel motions.
"Untreated Gonorrhoea can cause serious and permanent health problems in men and women. It can cause painful infection in the testicles or fallopian tubes that connect the womb to the ovaries and may result in infertility."
A sexual health check for Gonorrhoea is a simple process and can be arranged with a GP or through the local sexual health clinic.
"Too many people are unwittingly infecting their partners and the only way to ensure that you do not have an STI such as Gonorrhoea is to have a sexual health check at your doctor," Dr Ooi said.
Condoms offer good protection against STIs such as Gonorrhoea and Chlamydia and are an important part of practising safe sex.
"There is a high awareness about the benefits of condom use but it can be a very different story when it comes time to put that knowledge into practice," Dr Ooi said.
"People often don't consider themselves at risk or find it embarrassing to talk about using a condom with their partner.
"People can help themselves and their partners by making condom use normal, and not something that has to be requested.
"If you are sexually active, it is essential to use condoms and have regular sexual health tests at your GP or sexual health clinic so that you know you're STI free," Dr Ooi said.
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