Sexual health strategy release

The first NT-specific strategy to help reduce the high rates of Sexually Transmissible Infections and improve the sexual health of all Territorians has been released.

The Northern Territory Sexually Transmissible Infections and Blood Borne Viruses Strategic and Operational Plan 2019-2023 aims to improve the sexual health of Territorians by its focus on health promotion, prevention, testing, early treatment and preventing the onward transmission of Sexually Transmissible Infections (STI) and Blood Borne Viruses (BBV).

“The strategy applies to all Territorians, however some populations are more at risk of STI and BBV transmission and are disproportionately affected by increases in disease burden,” said Dr Sally Singleton, Section Head of the Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Unit.

“It acknowledges these populations are diverse, have diverse needs, are spread across different settings, and can have different patterns of STI and BBV transmission.”

The strategy outlines a coordinated stakeholder approach to reduce the burden of disease on individuals, families and communities and to provide the opportunity for Territorians to live longer, healthier lives, reducing healthcare costs, especially on hospitals.

The strategy focuses on six priority action areas:

  • Education and prevention
  • STI/BBV testing
  • Early treatment, care and support
  • Creating an enabling environment with equitable access
  • Strengthening workforce and peer-based capabilities
  • Monitoring, evaluation and focussed research.

The strategy specifically identifies public health activities related to the syphilis outbreak in the NT throughout each of the priority action areas.

This includes a focus on access to testing and treatment for those who are most at-risk of acquiring syphilis in the current outbreak – young Aboriginal people.

Activities to support the syphilis outbreak response include:

  • making available relevant, culturally appropriate, prevention-focussed health promotion resources in collaboration with communities
  • the deployment of community screens and point-of-care tests to rapidly identify and follow up those who are infected
  • support for an increased and appropriately skilled workforce, especially Aboriginal persons, including provision of training, education and relevant clinical guidelines
  • strategies to ensure timely testing and treatment in pregnancy
  • treatment and culturally appropriate contact tracing through primary health care teams and supported by the NTG Syphilis Register, which assists with monitoring, follow-up of clients and advice for clinical providers
  • review of NT and national data to inform actions.

The strategy is aligned with the five national STI/BBV strategies that were released at the end of 2018 (Fifth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander BBV and STI strategy; Fourth National STI strategy; Eighth National HIV strategy; Fifth National Hepatitis C strategy; and Third National Hepatitis B strategy).

The Sexual Health Advisory Group is a group of government and non-government stakeholders that meets three times a year to provide advice on sexual health policy and strategy, facilitate collaboration and coordination among its members to reduce costly program duplication, and promote new initiatives. This group identified the need for an NT-specific sexual health strategy. The Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus unit of the Centre for Disease Control took on the role of driving the development of the strategy in collaboration with these stakeholders.

The strategy is available online at: https://health.nt.gov.au/health-governance/nt-health-strategies

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