By Catherine Moore
Chlamydia: the often silent sexually transmitted infection that affects many Australians, especially people aged 16-24 years.
In 2010, approximately 4500 people were diagnosed with Chlamydia in South Australia alone, many of those university students.
“It doesn’t matter what gender, type of sex or sexual partner you’re into; Chlamydia likes everybody,” said Natalya Giffney, a Regional Schools Coordinator for Sexual Health information networking and education (SHine SA).
SHine SA is promoting the prevention, testing and treatment of Chlamydia for Sexual Health Awareness Week in February and throughout 2012.
“It’s a bacterial infection that is transmitted from person to person through sexual body fluids,” Ms Giffney said. “It can be quite serious, but very easy to treat.”
Chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics, but Ms Giffney said the biggest issue is testing and treating the infection before it progresses. Left undiagnosed, Chlamydia may lead to infertility in men and women.
“Even though the number of tests performed each year in the state has doubled between 2000 and 2010 to 67,000, the number of positive cases has quadrupled, so there’s definitely an increase in the community,” Ms Giffney said.
“There are a range of reasons as to why it’s increasing, but there are often no symptoms in men or women and so they may be passing it on without realising.”
SHine SA encourages students to use condoms and have STI tests every time they start a new relationship or have unprotected sex.
UniSA lecturer and SHine SA’s Workforce Development and Resources manager Dr Helen Calabretto said students shouldn’t dismiss the tests. “It’s just another health check that people need to have,” she said.
SHine SA recommends testing should be done every 6-12 months, which only involves a urine test for men and a quick self-swab test for women. Clinic 275 opposite the Royal Adelaide hospital is an ideal place to have an STI check.
“I like it because it’s free, it’s confidential. You don’t need a Medicare card, you don’t need an appointment and they’re the experts in STIs,” Ms Giffney said.
“It’s the sort of thing where you go, ‘Oh I have half an hour before my bus arrives and I haven’t had my STI check, I’ll just hop in there’.”
You can also go to a SHine SA clinic or your local GP clinic for a test.
If you are diagnosed with Chlamydia or any other STI, it can sometimes be difficult to notify your previous partners.The Melbourne Sexual Health Centre has created a website called letthemknow.org.au to help facilitate the process.
Just type in your sexual partner’s name or phone number and they’ll get a text or email message, telling them they may have come in contact with Chlamydia and it would be a good idea to go and have a test.
You need to let people know or it will just keep spreading.
If you would like more information on sexually transmitted infections, contraception or pregnancy, visit www.shinesa.gov.org.au.