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  • Gonorrhoea spike prompts plea for regular testing

    Author: AAP

Gonorrhoea is going around Gippsland at such a rate health authorities are pleading for people to get tested.

Notifications of the infection in Gippsland, in Victoria's east, jumped almost 20 per cent in 2023, according to the Gippsland Region Public Health Unit.

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"We've seen a significant increase in gonorrhoea as well as syphilis, particularly syphilis in pregnancy," the health unit's acting director Alyce WIlson told AAP.

"So in terms of how they compared to the state, we are seeing slightly higher levels of sexually transmitted infections in Gippsland."

Dr Wilson said while testing rates had improved after falling off during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was difficult to track the community incidence of infections such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia, which can be symptomless.

"We're really playing catch up with a lot of conditions including with STIs," she told AAP.

"Having a regular STI check, particularly for people that have multiple sexual partners ... is really important."

People with symptomatic gonorrhoea may experience discharge from their sexual organs, burning or pain while urinating, pelvic pain for women and painful or swollen testicles in men.

If left untreated it can lead to serious complications such as infertility and in rare cases spreads to the blood, which can be life threatening.

"A lot of the STIs are completely treatable and so it's really worth getting tested and getting treated," Dr Wilson said.

In the decade to 2023, gonorrhoea rates have jumped 456 per cent in Australian cities, by 83 per cent in regional areas and are up 25 per cent in remote areas, according to the University of NSW's Kirby Institute.

About 60 per cent of gonorrhoea notifications in Gippsland were in males, compared to about 70 per cent nationally in 2022, with men aged between 20 and 34 most at risk.

"It's men in this age group that are the ones that we particularly need to communicate with in terms of getting checked and tested," Dr Wilson said.

The increase in Gippsland tracks with national figures recorded by the Kirby Institute, which found gonorrhoea rates have more than doubled, syphilis has tripled and chlamydia has risen 12 per cent in the past decade.

Dr Wilson was concerned about increased rates of syphilis, which in pregnancy can lead to in utero death, premature birth and other complications.

"The fact that we're, at a state level, seeing an increase in congenital syphilis, I think is a is a really big warning sign that we need to be looking at upstream and prevention," she told AAP.

Chlamydia still remains the most common STI in Gippsland and Australia.

As many as 70 per cent of chlamydia infections are asymptomatic, but if left untreated can lead to serious complications including ectopic pregnancies and infertility in women.

Diagnosis and treatment for STIs such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia are easily managed, Dr Wilson said.

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