Health

Sex-tagious

The WA AIDS Council says the number of sexually transmitted infections in Western Australia is rising and the stigma attached to men getting checked for STIs is contributing to this.

This comes following a month-long online educational campaign launched by the WA AIDS Council this month to raise awareness about the increase in STIs.

The WA AIDS Council is urging young people to get tested for STIs. Photo: WA AIDS Council.
Listen to CEO of the WA AIDS Council David Kernohan discuss what the council is aiming to promote.
The most common STIs in WA. Graphics: Kristen Ricciardi

STIs have reached record highs in Western Australia over the past 12 months. From April 2018 to March 2019 there were 11,608 cases of chlamydia, 3,668 cases of gonorrhoea , 479 cases of syphilis, 71 cases of HIV and 505 new diagnoses of Hepatitis B.

WA AIDS Council CEO David Kernohan said there were a number of reasons for the rapid increase.

“Most people are not testing as frequently as they should, they are also not using precautions such as condoms and these reasons all contribute to the rise of STIs, particularly if there are no symptoms,” he said.

STIs have been on the rise for years, especially chlamydia. Graphics: Kristen Ricciardi

“It is important that even if you don’t have any signs or symptoms that, if you are having unprotected sex, you do test for sexually transmitted infections,” Kernohan said.

STIs are on the rise. Photo: Kristen Ricciardi.

The Stigma

David Kernohan said there is a stigma around getting checked for STIs with regards to men in particular.

“There are a lot of issues around men going to the doctor and getting tested generally.

“Men tend not to go to the doctors, we often have the mentality that ‘we’ll be right, it’ll fix itself’,” he said.

Ehealth administrator at Kelso Medical Group in Kardinya Daniel Grainger said the stigma around men’s health was a complex issue, but one that was slowly changing for the better.

Young guys need to know its normal to get checked. Photo: Kristen Ricciardi.

“The traditional role of the man in society as the provider and protector booked little room for such small matters as their own personal health and wellbeing,” he said.

Daniel Grainger also said most men believe problems are their weakness, and showing weakness in front of his peers and family might set the wrong tone.

“The pride mentality inherit in the male psyche is still very strong and to ask for help is to admit there is something wrong.

“Whilst that keen instinct for self-preservation still runs true, it doesn’t always extend itself to seeking medical attention, or even discussing things with their spouses or families,” he said.

Even so, Daniel Grainger said the stigma was changing and more and more men were taking responsibility for their own health.

But there is still room for improvement.

Males are dying from preventable diseases more commonly than women are. Photo: Kristen Ricciardi.

Research from the Australian Centre of Excellence in Male Reproductive Heath has indicated reproductive health conditions are common among Australian males and a male health strategy is needed to combat this stigma.

The research shows that the 25-64 year age group is where most preventable deaths occur in men.

In 2016, 20% of all male deaths occurred in this age group compared to 13% of female deaths from diseases that could have been prevented.

This indicates more men than woman are dying from preventable diseases.

Even though most STIs are treatable, David Kernahan said the increasing numbers being seen indicate that people, men in particular, were not getting the preventable services they need and were not fully understanding their risk.

“We need to encourage young guys to test and to see the seriousness of making sure that they know their sexual health status,” he said.

Prevention

David Kernohan said that the easiest was to keep from getting an STI is to use a condom.

Listen to CEO of the WA Aids Council David Kernohan discuss when people may not think to use a condom.

“It is important for the message to get out there that young people, and not just young people, also middle-aged people up to 44 need to be using condoms to prevent STIs,” he said.

It is important to remember that even though condoms are 98% effective at protecting from STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea, they do not protect from STIs such as herpes, genital warts and syphilis.

Condoms are the most effective way to prevent STIs. Photo: Kristen Ricciardi.

This is why David Kernohan insists people get checked regularly.

“Go to your local GP and ask for a test,” he said.

Daniel Grainger said men should be vocal about their health concerns or problems.

“Men should feel they can turn to their fellow peers to discuss subjects which may have been taboo to discuss in the past,” he said.

If STIs are left unchecked consequences include infertility, severe pelvic pain and erectile dysfunction. But it also contributes to the spread of the STI.

If you want to find out if you might be at risk of having an STI before you consult a doctor, Get the Facts has an online testing service that young people are encouraged to take.

For more information visit; https://waaids.com