Australia’s STI rates are rising. When you find out that 66K+ Australians were diagnosed with Chlamydia in 2015, with 77% being among those aged 15-29, it’s alarming. When you find out that then only 28% of Chlamydia cases are actually diagnosed, it’s shocking.

Dr Mitchell Tanner
This article was provided by Dr Mitchell Tanner. Dr Tanner is the Head Doctor at Stigma Health, an Australian healthcare company streamlining the STI Testing process online.

Between 2009 and 2015 there was a 116% increase in the rate of diagnoses of Gonorrhoea, as a doctor when you see these numbers, you realise that something is terribly wrong. 

Perhaps people just don’t take these STIs seriously enough because they’re easily cured and the symptoms, if they’re present, aren’t that debilitating, but here’s the thing, the long-term consequences can be, both Gonorrhoea and Chlamydia can result in infertility. If that is not enough motivation for people to get tested you’d think that a life threatening STI would be surely?  

In 1928 a man called Alexander Fleming invented Penicillin and amongst other things it was the cure for Syphilis. That should have been the end of this horrible disease that was responsible for the demise of so many, but guess what?  It is still a troubling issue in Australia with the rate of diagnoses increasing by 266% in those aged 25-29, 223% in those 20-24 and 171% in those 30-39 since 2006.

How did this happen? How did these easily treatable infections get so out of control?

One studyprovides some answers about why young people don’t get tested. Cost, convenience and fear of medical staff attitudes all proved to be significant barriers to STI testing and when people don’t get tested, well this is where we end up.

Together with my Co-Founder, James Sneddon, we set about trying to find a solution to this problem and so Stigma Health was born. After a long journey we had finally found an affordable way to test for STIs predominantly online with no embarrassing face-to-face doctors appointments. We had eliminated some major obstacles.Australia's STI rates are rising

Unfortunately though, those three barriers aren’t the only ones, there are other Pros and Cons, Fears & Worries and stigma related issues that people need to move past.

The most common Fear was, ‘Fear of parents and partners reactions’ but ‘fear of medical procedures’ also proved to be detrimental to STI testing as well as the previously mentioned ‘fear of staff attitudes.’   

Another big issue proved to be STI Related Shame, more than half of the participants believed they would experience Shame if they were found to have an STI, but only a minority of participants had negative opinions of people with an STI. So people are self-shaming, yet they wouldn’t judge a peer if they discovered they had an STI. Something doesn’t add up there…Rising Chlamydia rates

The moral of this story is that combating the barriers to STI testing is a job for us all, we need everyone to do their part and get tested every time they change sexual partner. We need people to move past the stigma attached to STIs and accept that they can and do happen to people from all walks of life. We need people to understand that these easily treated infections can have serious long-term health consequences when they are left untreated so you need to get tested regularly.

We need to change our mindset and make testing the norm. I hope that you will help us to create a solution to this pressing public health issue by talking to your friends and sexual partners and getting tested when you should.

If you think you may have a STI, you can order a secure test online from stigma health. Your pathology referral will only cost you $21.99 and your results will be delivered safely and securely online. If you need further assistance and treatment speak with your GP – you can find a local GP by using doctors.com.au.

Statistics courtesy of: The Kirby Institute. HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia Annual Surveillance Report 2016. The Kirby Institute, UNSW Australia, Sydney NSW 2052

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