HIV and sexual disease rates in young climbing, specialist says

SEXUALLY transmitted infection rates for diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea continue to rise across Queensland, says Andrew Redmond, a staff specialist in infectious diseases at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital.

Dr Redmond said doctors had seen a ''sustained increase'' in infections, ''particularly in young people''. HIV rates also continued to rise, and people were taking dangerous risks.

''It really reflects people not using condoms as much as they should, and that looking after sexual health is maybe something we think other people have to do,'' he said. ''Or maybe it is that teaching people how to negotiate safer sex is something we need to concentrate on.

''Some of these diseases can be asymptomatic, so it is also important for us as doctors and other healthcare professionals to think about screening patients for sexually transmissible infections because, if you have an asymptomatic infection, it can be damaging, but you could also be passing it on to others because you don't know you have it.''

Last year, Queensland Health said there had been 195 new HIV diagnoses. That was 10 fewer than 2010 but there ''has been a general upward trend since the late 1990s''.

Last year there were 18,340 notifications of chlamydia.

''I think sexual health continues to be something that is difficult for young people, in particular, to learn about. I think that lots of teachers and parents feel inhibited discussing these things with their pupils and their children, and young people don't necessarily feel comfortable discussing it with their parents.

''People make decisions about sex in a way that they might not make decisions about buying a car or even buying a hamburger. People feel under pressure at times when they make those decisions [about sex] and if we haven't taught people to make better decisions, then people can be at risk.''

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