PRACTICE safe sex this holiday season to reduce your chance of catching a sexually transmitted or blood borne infection, experts warn.
Increased alcohol consumption can encourage people to take unnecessary risks like not using protection during sex, the North Coast HIV/Sexual Health, Hepatitis and Needle Syringe Services advises.
HIV and Related Programs manager Jenny Heslop said chlamydia cases in the Hastings were “hideously high”, rating well above the state average.
She said complacency surrounding condom use, a high viral load of the infection and ideal climate for it to spread were factors contributing to the high presentations.
People in the 16 to 28 demographic were most likely to test positive to the STI.
In September last year, 448 cases were reported on the Mid-North Coast – a figure that was expected to rise by at least 100. These are the latest figures available.
North Coast rates have risen almost 17 per cent each year for the past decade.
Ms Heslop said there was still the common misconception in our community that a contraceptive pill or implant is adequate protection.
“These measures don’t protect you from anything other than having children,” she said.
Young people are less likely to appreciate the outcomes of chlamydia if left untreated, which can include infertility.
“It’s not until later in life when they’re trying to have children that they realise the impact of this infection,” Ms Heslop said.
“For the North Coast to have higher than the state average is just crazy.”
If you have recently changed partners or are “playing the field” Ms Heslop stressed the importance of stocking up on condoms.
“You have to worry about the health of your whole body, not just from the waist up,” she said.
About 800 people at any one time are living on the North Coast with blood borne infections like HIV/AIDS. Ms Heslop encouraged injecting drug users to safely dispose of used needles and syringes in sharp disposal bins.
n If you think you may have been
exposed to a sexually transmitted
infection call the Sexual Health
Information Line on 1800 451 624
Many Sexual Health and Needle Syringe Program services will be closed, or will operate with reduced hours and staff between December 24 and January 4.
Services are available for people seeking sexual health advice:
· If exposed to a blood borne infections contact the HEP C Helpline 1800 803 990 or the PEP Hotline (HIV) 1800 737 669