Syphilis rates double in the north west

FREE CONDOMS: Mount Isa sexual health clinic provides free and confidential check-ups.

FREE CONDOMS: Mount Isa sexual health clinic provides free and confidential check-ups.

More people have contracted syphilis than the flu in the north west this year. 

Queensland Health has recorded 51 Chlamydia notifications, seven syphilis, and just three cases of the flu in the north west in 2018. 

Syphilis rates more than doubled in the region from 2016 to 2017.

Chlamydia and Syphilis are sexually transmitted infections, which can be serious if untreated – potentially leading to fertility problems, pelvic inflammatory disease and more. 

STIs can be "silent" diseases which often don't show symptoms. 

Mount Isa sexual health clinic nurse Mark Hanlon said anyone who has unprotected sex is at risk and the disease is not exclusive to any one group of people.

“Yes, syphilis is a problem here, rates have increased and they have been high since 2011,” Mr Hanlon said. 

“We recommend you have an yearly check up if you are sexually active – even if you use protection. 

“If you have a new or casual partner, if the condom breaks, you have unprotected sex or if you have any symptoms, you should come and see us,” he said. 

Mr Hanlon said condoms are still your best defence against infections.

STIs are the most common infectious disease in Mount Isa and syphilis is not the only problem. 

National data shows roughly one in 20 young Australians have chlamydia.and a new strain of gonorrhoea is spreading which is highly resistant to antibiotics. 

Jolene Yandall is another sexual health nurse based at the clinic. 

Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria cells are 'the bugs we can't afford to let get out of hand' Photo: Science Picture Co

Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria cells are 'the bugs we can't afford to let get out of hand' Photo: Science Picture Co

She said the clinic sees as many as 200 people per month. 

“It is not as daunting as you might think,” Ms Yandall said. 

“We always make our clients feel comfortable and at ease because sexual health is an area that can cause embarrassment. It is a very non-judgmental environment. 

“People can be shy about coming in because everyone knows everyone’s business in a small community. But everything we do is confidential. We wan’t to normalise it because sex is normal,” she said. 

Mr Hanlon said a basic sexual health check is usually done and dusted in 20 minutes. 

“We take a brief sexual health history so we know what testing we need to do, then it is usually just a urine and blood test,” Mr Hanlon said.

“It is free and confidential. We provide treatments here and also follow ups.”

Mr Hanlon said if you want to have a sexual health check you can head to the clinic on 1 Barkley Highway or visit your GP or medical centre. 

“We offer a lot of different services at the clinic.

“We provide contraception and we are all implanon trained, and we offer emergency contraception. 

“We also have a Needle Syringe Program so people who are injecting can come and get safe, clean equipment and  we offer LGBTQI+ support services,” he said. 

Symptoms associated with STIs

Women:

  • a sore, wart, lump, rash or blister on the genitals
  • pain during sex
  • pain passing urine
  • abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • an unusual vaginal discharge
  • painful, irregular periods and/or bleeding between periods or after sex.

Men:

  • a discharge from the penis or rectum
  • a sore, wart, lump, rash or blister on the genitals or around the anus
  • an itch or soreness of the penis
  • pain passing urine
  • painful or swollen testicles
  • abdominal pain.