A number of sexually-transmitted diseases are rising in Australia.
A number of sexually-transmitted diseases are rising in Australia. Sarah Harvey

Australian syphilis rates at highest ever level

RATES of a raft of sexually-transmitted diseases are rising across Australia, particularly in regional and remote areas, with syphilis diagnoses at the highest level ever recorded, new research has revealed.

The University of New South Wales Kirby Institute research, to be released on Thursday, has also revealed that the number of people dying from Hepatitis C-related liver disease has doubled in the past decade.

In the Australia Annual Surveillance Report, the Institute found syphilis rates had soared in 2013 to reach 1765 recorded diagnoses, up from about 1500 in previous years.

It also revealed while Chlamydia rates fell slightly in 2013, there were still more than 82,000 diagnoses during the year, again most common among Australians aged 20 to 24 years old.

The rate of gonorrhoea diagnoses continues to rise, the report found, up some 80% in the past five years, and rising from 13,842 cases in 2012 to 14,947 in 2013.

Report co-author, Kirby Institute Associate Professor David Wilson said the report had also confirmed that the general trend for STIs was that "the more remote a population is, the greater the rate".

He said in remote areas, both indigenous and non-indigenous Australia suffered higher rates generally, but across all measures, First Australians had "substantially greater" rates of STIs.

And the syphilis rates, Assoc Prof Wilson said, were highest among gay men, and growing among women, which he said indicated greater bisexual activity among some men.

He also said that while there was anecdotal evidence of higher STI rates among fly-in fly-out workers, they had no specific data to confirm the link.

"However, HIV among people who travel to South-east Asia, anecdotally, could be higher, which I'd suspect is because of the sex tourism trade, but that would be pure speculation," he said.


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