The Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Unit (SHBBVU) aims to reduce the incidence and transmission of sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and blood borne viruses (BBVs) in the Northern Territory. We work with affected communities, non-government organisations, clinical services, training organisations and researchers to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate our public health response to controlling these infections.
The SHBBVU supports the delivery of educational and clinical services to urban, rural and remote communities across the Northern Territory. The program is guided by the Sexual Health Advisory Group (SHAG), which provides high-level advice in relation to strategic planning, priority setting, research direction and resource allocation.
Current program areas include:
- Clinic 34 Sexual Health Clinics
- Needle and Syringe Program
- Health Promotion
- Remote Sexual Health Program
- Syphilis Register
- HBV, HCV and HIV Community Prescriber Program
Clinic 34 specialises in sexual health services for the assessment and treatment of STIs and BBVs including HIV and hepatitis C. In addition to providing direct clinical services Clinic 34 supports other urban services to provide STI and BBV services through advice, education and resources. Clinic 34 also distributes sterile injecting equipment and provides safe disposal facilities through the Northern Territory Needle and Syringe Program (NSP). Clinics are located in Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Nhulunbuy. All services are free and confidential and clients do not need a Medicare card for most services. For further information and appointments, please contact your nearest Clinic 34.
The Northern Territory Needle and Syringe Program (NSP) distributes sterile injecting equipment, provides facilities for safe disposal of used injecting equipment, and offers information, support and referral services to people who inject drugs in order to prevent blood borne virus transmission and avoid injecting related injury.
In the NT there are three primary NSP outlets, ten secondary outlets, and a number of pharmacy-based outlets. Primary outlets provide a broad range of sterile injecting equipment, information, support and referral services, and facilities for the safe disposal of used injecting equipment. Secondary and pharmacy-based outlets typically provide a limited range of sterile injecting equipment and disposal facilities.
Primary outlets are managed by the Northern Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Council and are located in Darwin, Palmerston and Alice Springs. Secondary outlets are located at Clinic 34 Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Nhulunbuy, and at hospital emergency departments in Alice Springs, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Nhulunbuy. There is also a secondary outlet located at the Yulara Medical Centre in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
The SHBBVU is committed to the principles of health promotion by building healthy public policy, creating supportive environments, facilitating health education and skills development, supporting community action and re-orienting health services.
Using epidemiological and behavioural research, the SHBBVU collaborates with a wide range of stakeholders to promote safe behaviours, increase testing and increase access to health hardware and clinical services to prevent the transmission of STIs and BBVs. This is done through resource development, targeted social marketing campaigns and community education.
The Remote Sexual Health Program uses a continuous quality improvement approach to provide technical assistance, clinical leadership and workforce capacity building to primary health care services to support the implementation of a best practice STI and BBV program. The program assists communities to increase access to health hardware, such as condoms and ceremonial kits. Remote sexual health program clinicians also coordinate any public health investigation and response required for STIs or BBVs in remote communities.
- Free On-Line Sexual Health Module on the Remote Area Health Corps Website
This module provides an overview of the key elements involved in sexual healthcare, drawing on clinical practice guidelines and research and it is intended to broaden people's understanding of the testing and management of STIs and BBVs and to improve the quality of sexual health service delivery in primary healthcare settings. The modules have been developed to meet criteria for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programs with RACGP, ACRRM, APNA and ASHM.
The SHBBVU monitors the occurrence of notifiable STIs and BBVs in the Northern Territory and produces six-monthly SHBBV Surveillance Update Reports to report the statistics of these Notifiable diseases diagnosed in the NT. Where necessary, clinical audits, program evaluations, epidemiological research, and outbreak investigations are also conducted to enhance understanding of STI and BBV epidemiology and the effectiveness of services delivered. Surveillance data and findings from these investigations are utilised to inform evidence-based policy and programmatic responses to STIs and BBVs in the NT.
The SHBBVU maintains a Territory wide Syphilis Register. Diagnosis and treatment of STIs is relatively straightforward, this is not the case with Syphilis. Information on current clinical findings and previous tests and history is required in order to determine correct treatment. Syphilis Register operators in Darwin (08 8922 7818) and Alice Springs (08 8951 7552) coordinate the collection, storage and distribution of information in relation to the diagnosis, treatment and follow up of syphilis and congenital syphilis. Register operators can support clinicians in treatment and follow-up and assist in the surveillance and control of syphilis in the NT.
The SHBBVU is responsible for authorising doctors who work outside the Department of Health to be able to prescribe medication for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV under the Commonwealth s100 Highly Specialised Drugs Scheme. The Australasian Society for HIV Medicine (ASHM) manages this program on behalf of the NT government. Doctors who are interested in training and becoming a prescriber should contact either ASHM or the SHBBV unit for more information. For more information about the program refer to the NT Department of Health Policy available on the Centre for Disease Control internet site. For a list of all authorised community based prescribers refer to the ASHM directory of prescribers.
The SHBBVU funds, supports and coordinates research activities for STIs and BBVs conducted in the NT. Research activities in these areas can be conducted by SHBBV staff alone or researchers from other organisations, or by both in collaboration. A list of research studies in which the Unit's staff were involved and which have been published in peer reviewed journals are available.
Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT)
Family Planning Welfare Association NT (FPWNT)
Northern Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Council (NTAHC)
Remote Primary Care Manuals (CARPA STM & WBM)
Safe Sex No Regrets
Association for Prevention and Harm Reduction Programs Australia (ANEX)
Australasian Sexual Health Alliance (ASHA)
Australasian Society for HIV Medicine (ASHM)
Australian Federation of AIDS organisations (AFAO)
Department of Health Australian Government - Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections
National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO)
National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWA)
CDC Factsheets : Factsheets on communicable diseases, including vector borne disease, marine stingers and antibiotics used for preventive treatment.