Victorian health authorities are begging residents to get tested – but NOT for Covid-19, for STIs

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Victorian health authorities are begging residents to get tested – but NOT for Covid-19

  • Victoria’s Department of Health are urging residents to get tested for STIs
  • Authorities are concerned about a spike once the city is released from lockdown
  • Cases of untreated congenital syphilis have increased over the past two years 


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As Melburnians prepare to emerge from their lockdown slumber, Victorian health authorities are urging people to get tested for sexually transmissible infections.

The city’s world-record lockdowns have not only limited the spread of Covid-19 but also ostensibly STIs, with home visits banned to all but intimate partners and those in single bubbles.

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But the return of freedoms and the reopening of Melbourne meeting places such as pubs, cafes and restaurants before this weekend is set to lead to more social interactions, including those of the intimate variety.

Victorian health officials are urging residents to get tested for sexually transmissible infections (pictured, secondary syphilis case)

Victorian health officials are urging residents to get tested for sexually transmissible infections (pictured, secondary syphilis case)

The Department of Health’s Maria Bubnic says anyone who is sexually active can get or have an STI, and noted sexual health testing fell last year during lockdowns and again in 2021.

The department’s current testing campaign will run from October 17 – 23 and Victorians are being urged to talk with health officials and workers about being tested for STIs. 

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‘This means people may have an undiagnosed STI and potentially be at risk of passing an STI onto a partner,’ the executive director of public health said in a statement on Monday.

‘That is why it is so important that when restrictions ease, and freedoms return, that people talk to their GP about a sexual health test.’

She said sexually active people should get tested for STIs such as HIV, gonorrhoea, syphilis, chlamydia and blood-borne forms of hepatitis every 12 months, or even earlier if they planned to conceive.

Most STIs are curable and all are treatable but if not remedied can cause long-term health conditions, including infertility.

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Congenital syphilis, where a baby is born with infectious syphilis, has recently become an emerging public health issue in Victoria. 

Cases of congenital syphilis, which can cause miscarriage and serious birth abnormalities in babies, have increased over the past two years, including two foetal deaths.

As the state emerges from lockdown the Department of Health is urging people to get tested to halt the spread of STIs (stock)

As the state emerges from lockdown the Department of Health is urging people to get tested to halt the spread of STIs (stock)

The Department of Health figures showed 12 cases of congenital syphilis in Victoria since 2017, and only two cases in the 20 years prior to 2017.

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Data released in May by Alfred Health’s Melbourne Sexual Health Centre reported a 220 per cent increase in sexually transmitted infections in the past few years.

Cases grew from 636 cases in 2014 to 1,659 cases in 2019. 

The health department says it’s a timely reminder for people planning a family to get tested.

‘It is estimated that around one in every six people will get an STI in their life – and most won’t even know it,’ Ms Bubnic said.

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‘There are many types of STIs, most are curable and all are treatable.

‘If left untreated, STIs can cause long term effects on the body, including infertility.’

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