Gonorrhoea up by 63 per cent in five years

The number of Australians diagnosed with gonorrhoea has increased by 63 per cent in the past five years with spikes in the number of men and heterosexual city-dwellers infected, a new report states.

The University of NSW's Kirby Institute annual report on STIs and blood-borne viruses found that diagnoses of gonorrhoea and syphilis were rising while the number of people diagnosed annually with HIV has remained the same over the past five years.

Young heterosexual city-dwellers have shown a prominent and unprecedented rise in gonorrhoea in this period, the report says.

"Up until recently, gonorrhoea had been uncommon in young heterosexual people living in major cities," said Associate Professor Rebecca Guy at UNSW.

"Rising rates in this group highlight the need for initiatives to raise awareness among clinicians and young people about the importance of testing," she said.

Regional reports of gonorrhoea increased more modestly by 15 per cent, while remote areas declined by 8 per cent.

The report found males more likely to be infected with gonorrhoea, with a sharp increase in diagnoses of 72 per cent, compared with an increase of 43 per cent among women over the five years.

In 2016, almost three-quarters of the 23,887 people diagnosed with gonorrhoea were men.

Chlamydia is the most commonly diagnosed STI in Australia and is most often reported among young people: three-quarters of new cases in 2016 were people aged 15 to 29.

Rates of gonorrhoea were seven times higher among Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, and three times higher for chlamydia compared with the non-Indigenous population.

Overall, HIV diagnoses have remained the same over the past five years, with 1013 new diagnoses in 2016 compared with 1066 in 2012.

However, HIV transmission among Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders has increased by 39 per cent since 2012.

The chief executive of the Australia Federation of AIDS Organisations, Darryl O'Donnell, said this needed urgent attention.

"The sad reality is that for HIV transmission, the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is widening," he said.

The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations is calling on the federal government to invest $15 million annually into initiatives to close the gap.

These include targeting needle sharing, more resources to test for and treat HIV, better research and evaluation to monitor behavioural risk factors, and more health promotion work by Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations.

This story Gonorrhoea up by 63 per cent in five years first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.