Let’s talk about sex
Remember the advice your parents gave you: ‘Don’t talk about sex, politics or religion in public’? Well, put that aside because it’s time to talk about sex.
September is Sexual Health Month and the Gippsland Region Public Health Unit (GRPHU) is keen to remind you that your sexual health is just as important as other aspects of your health and wellbeing.
“Sexual health covers topics such as contraception, sexually transmitted infections, vaccinations to protect against cervical cancer, access to termination services and more,” said GRPHU Acting Director Dr Alyce Wilson said.
Gippsland, like many areas outside Melbourne is over represented in infections and underserved in terms of services.
“We have only four dedicated sexual health services covering more than 40,000 square kilometres. They are based in Cowes, Bairnsdale, Morwell and Yarram,” Dr Wilson said.
The data around infections and testing reflect some concerning trends.
Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) across Gippsland. It is estimated that 77% of chlamydia infections are undiagnosed. Many of these cases are asymptomatic infections which result in untreated disease, ongoing transmission and increased risk of complications.”
Gonorrhoea notifications have been increasing across Gippsland since 2016. Almost half (49.1%) of the gonorrhoea notifications in 2023 are in community members aged 15 to 29, with men making up over 60% of cases.
Syphilis cases are also increasing, particularly in women, as well as in men who have sex with men. If untreated, syphilis infections can lead to serious health effects, particularly for unborn babies during pregnancy.
“Research from the Kirby Institute has found chlamydia rates are at least twice as high in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations and people in rural and remote areas are likely to have lower STI testing rates and poorer health outcomes, emphasising the importance of local, culturally safe and appropriate sexual health care,” Dr Wilson said.
While those figures might be alarming to many people, there is a simple solution at hand, according to Dr Wilson.
“We need to talk about our sexual health.”
One in six Australians will get an STI in their lifetime. A sexual health check is an opportunity to speak openly and confidentially about sexuality, relationships, prevention, protection and STIs.
Your GP or local sexual health clinic can arrange some simple tests and if needed a treatment plan to improve your quality of life.
“Talking opening about sexual health with those you trust is important. Make an appointment with your GP today,” Dr Wilson said.
Useful sites to visit for more information and access to services:
Clinic 281, Bairnsdale
LCHS Sexual Health Services, Morwell
Sexual Health in Practice Services, Yarram
Sexual Health in Practice Services, Cowes.