‘Get tested’: Women’s health advocate calls for health checks as STI test rates drop

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Fear of going to health clinics during COVID-19 has led to a drop in screenings for sexually transmitted infections, with a leading health advocate urging residents of central and northwest Victoria to get tested a priority.

The use of barrier contraceptives, including condoms, has also declined over the past year as cheap condoms have become less available, said Women’s Health official Loddon Mallee.

Chief Executive Tricia Currie said the lockdowns in Victoria were affecting people’s ability to get tested and some feared going to medical clinics as the pandemic spread.

During Victoria’s second lockdown, which lasted almost two months in the Victoria area, the number of active coronavirus cases peaked in August, reaching the mid-1950s. Another rapid five-day lockdown was called for mid-February of this year.

“As a result, this ability to screen or hear what women may have to say about their own health (has diminished),” she said.

Ms Currie said it also reduces the chances of early detection.

Tricia Currie, Executive Director of Women’s Health at Loddon Mallee.(

Provided: Women’s Health Loddon Mallee

)

STIs on the rise

In the run-up to the pandemic, statistics from the Victoria Department of Health show there were 269 cases of sexually transmitted infections reported in Greater Bendigo in the 12 months prior to January 11 of last year.

Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showed that during the decade of 1996 and 2016, cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea rose sharply across the country.

Reported cases of chlamydia have almost quadrupled, while gonorrhea cases almost doubled between 2010 and 2016.

Lack of condoms, screenings will be reflected in the data

Ms Currie said she expected medical data for the coming months to reflect the recent decline in demand for screenings and access to barrier contraceptives.

Packages of condoms on a table
Inexpensive condoms were harder to find during COVID-19 lockdowns.(

Flickr: peachy92

)

“You kind of go, ‘Oh my God, unexpected outcome over there.’

“Access to condoms is something to be aware of.”



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