Researchers: Many Aussie girls have undiagnosed chlamydia

The most common way HIV is transmitted is through unprotected sex - not using a condom.
The most common way HIV is transmitted is through unprotected sex - not using a condom. Sunshine Coast Daily

EVEN before they hit their teenage years, Australian girls form a critical part of an epidemic which is keeping chlamydia the most prevalent sexually-transmitted disease.

New research being presented at a Darwin conference on sexual health from University of New South Wales Associate Professor David Wilson suggested more than 82,000 people are living with the STI.Of those, 13,649 were diagnosed in 2012.

"Of every condition, chlamydia is more frequently (reported) than any other conditions," Prof Wilson said.

"Unfortunately, the terrible news - it's only the tip of the iceberg.

"We actually believe there are a larger number who are infected but are not diagnosed."

He said the true numbers of those with the infection could lie somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000.

Burnet Institute manager of infectious disease surveillance Carol El-Hayek said her research found girls aged 12 to 15 were tested less than their older counterparts, but were much more likely to test positive.

Of those tested, 13% had chlamydia - higher rates than those aged between 16 and 24.

One reason for this, she said, could be that young teenagers were often tested only if there was some reason, whether a sign of infection or it was understood they were sexually active.

"We were surprised to see that when you hone in on the younger people, the younger they are, the higher the positivity[COR]," Ms El-Hayek said.

"Although we know from other research that 12 to 15-year-olds are having sex, we don't know a lot about their sexual behaviour.

"I think there needs to be a lot more research on their sexual behaviour and STIs."

The Australasian Sexual Health Conference in Darwin wraps up tomorrow.

Topics:  chlamydia health sex std sti

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