Government spends $8.8 million to curb syphilis outbreak

SourceNational Indigenous Times, Wendy Caccetta, 17 October 2018

Three more regions are to get on-the-spot syphilis tests in the ongoing fight against the potentially deadly outbreak in northern Australia.

The quick tests are now available in East Arnhem Land and Katherine in the Northern Territory and the Kimberley in Western Australia.

They became available in northern Queensland and Darwin in August.

Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt said feedback from Queensland and Darwin was that the tests were having a positive impact.

“Since the syphilis outbreak started in 2011, there have been more than 2200 reported cases,” Mr Wyatt said. “This is a preventable disease, and in this day and age, it’s a tragedy that it is so prevalent in some First Nation communities.”

The Federal Government is spending $8.8 million to curb the outbreak of syphilis in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The on-the-spot tests allow instant diagnosis and if needed, immediate treatment.

Read the full story


Young Deadly Syphilis Free campaign new resources

This is to let you know that Phase 2 of SAHMRI’s Young Deadly Syphilis Free campaign was launched on 9 September, with new resources building on the messaging developed for Phase 1 of the campaign, which ran until March this year.

The syphilis outbreak continues in Northern and Central Australia, with over 2175 cases of infectious syphilis reported among Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people living in remote and urban areas of QLD, WA, SA and the NT.  The Pilbara region in WA is the newest area with new notifications. Most cases of syphilis were found in people aged 15-29 years. Since the outbreak was declared in 2011 there have been 6 infant deaths due to congenital syphilis (3 confirmed and 3 probable).

New  resources for clinicians practising in remote communities will also be developed, promoting appropriate testing to those most at risk, including antenatal testing of women during pregnancy.
New TV commercials will run alongside our initial TV commercials aired during last year and until March this year.

To view the two new TV commercials just click the images below.
Please don’t share these until after 9 September.
The first of our new TVCs is a powerful message from community members about syphilis and the importance of testing

The second one is a shortened version of our original syphilis animation cut to fit TV advertising time and standards.

Over the next few months we will add to the scheduling of TV ads with new content as they are finalised in production.

Our campaign begins next week and will run for a year so please use these resources in your work or refer to these when talking to community.

Social Media
Social media will feature health messages by our mob, for our mob.

Once again the campaign will be strongly supported by social media, with regular Facebook posts, Divas Chat advertising and promotion on our website featuring all new video clips and infographics. The campaign promotes whole communities’ involvement in tackling syphilis as a public health issue along with other STIs, and has involved young people, clinicians and people of influence such as parents and extended family members/carers.

Young Deadly Free Clinic Posters
Healthy messages by our mob, for our mob.

Take a sneak peek below at the new Young Deadly Free posters, we are just giving you a preview but we have many more to choose from. They are available to download from our website for printing.

The project team would like to thank all the talent who have provided input to the new resources during our visits in community.

Follow Young Deadly Free on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date on new resources as they're launched

Syphilis in northern communities

Source: The Saturday Paper, Michele Tydd, 8-14 September 2018

As an infectious syphilis epidemic continues to ravage northern Australia – now threatening the lives of newborn babies – Indigenous sexual health specialist James Ward is leading a campaign to help remote communities.

While the federal government committed $8.8 million this year to fight an ongoing syphilis epidemic sweeping Australia’s top end, many prominent sexual health physicians and academics claim the money is too little too late.

“Every day there are more cases, so we are not seeing a downward trend yet,” says Dr Manoji Gunathilake, who heads up a government-run health service known as Clinic 34.

Gunathilake is the Northern Territory’s only specialist sexual health physician. She says local health workers are ramping up testing as part of a fight to contain the infection, which particularly affects young sexually active Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the territory. However, it seems those measures are struggling to contain the STI’s spread.

Read the full story


Government launches critical new weapon in fight against syphilis

Source: National Indigenous Times, Wendy Caccetta, 8 August 2018

The Federal Government has begun rolling out what it says is a critical new weapon in the fight against the deadly syphilis outbreak which has gripped northern Australia.

Federal Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt said from today on-the-spot syphilis tests would be available in three high risk regions — Townsville, Cairns and Darwin.

The instant tests allow people to be diagnosed straight away and to be treated immediately, rather than have to wait a fortnight for results from traditional blood tests.

“These tests are a critical weapon in the fight to curb and control the spread of syphilis,” Mr Wyatt said.

Three thousand test kits have been sent to the Townsville Aboriginal and Islanders Health Service, 3,000 to the Wuchopperen Health Service in Cairns and 4,000 to the Danila Dilba Health Service in Darwin.

Read the full story

Syphilis: How deadly disease has spread in Australia

Source: BBC News, Sydney, By Frances Mao

Less than a decade ago, doctors in Australia believed they were close to eliminating syphilis from remote indigenous communities - the centre of national efforts to fight the disease.

Since then, however, the sexually transmitted infection has grown into an outbreak spanning three states and a territory.

Doctors say six babies have died from congenital syphilis since 2011.

During the same period, they say the outbreak overwhelmingly affecting indigenous Australians has risen from about 120 people to more than 2,100.

Health experts have characterised it as a crisis, saying the nation faces a "big task" to bring the problem under control.

How did this happen?

The majority of syphilis sufferers in Australia are young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who live in regional areas in the nation's north and centre, doctors say.

Indigenous health experts, including Associate Prof James Ward, issued a call in the Medical Journal of Australia in 2011 to try to end syphilis in communities where it was a problem.

But Associate Prof Ward says it has instead "spiralled out of control", spreading from one Queensland community to elsewhere in the state, as well as to the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia.

Read the full story

Syphilis shame needs to be eradicated too

Source: National News, © 4CA Cairns – 12 July 2018

Erasing a syphilis epidemic sweeping indigenous communities will not only require the distribution of rapid test kits but also ending the shame associated with the disease, a leading sexual health physician says.

The federal government will distribute on Monday, as part of an $8.8 million plan to tackle the outbreak, more than 60,000 rapid test kits across Townsville, Cairns and Darwin.

Cairns Sexual Health Service physician Dr Darren Russell, who is also an associate professor at James Cook University, says the kits were "long overdue" but only part of the solution.

Since 2011, more than 1000 cases had been recorded in north Queensland including 11 babies with congenital syphilis of which six have died.

"We've had an epidemic in Queensland … and that has spread across to the Northern Territory, Western Australia and more recently South Australia," he said.

Read the full story

Syphilis has returned to Queensland in epidemic proportions, and it's killing babies

Source: ABC News – 11 July 2018
A disease that once sent kings mad is now killing babies in Queensland

A 'medieval' disease infamous for devastating kings has returned in epidemic proportions in Queensland, and killed six babies in as many years, despite there being a cheap and effective cure.

In the last six years, six babies have died in the state from syphilis — a sexually transmitted disease that was nearly eradicated in the early 2000s.

In 2008, two cases were diagnosed in Queensland, and in the decade since, more than 1,100 other cases have been recorded in the north of the state, with about 200 new presentations each year.

The numbers continue to grow, despite penicillin being a cheap and effective cure.

Read the full story

Young Deadly Syphilis Free Resources

Source: Latest Young, Deadly, Syphilis Free Newsletter

Hello Everyone

We really wanted to extend our reach to community, we understand some of you may have already received this newsletter and we apologise for cross posting but please take this opportunity to share our newsletter with colleagues, friends and organisations in your area.

The team here at SAHMRI have compiled all of our syphilis health promotion and educational resources for you and included them here for you to use.

Within the link below you will find a syphilis and an STI educational animation, a series of syphilis info-graphics, 2 television commercials, radio advertisements, 2 posters, short and long fact sheets, and four clinician videos.

Click here: to download our resources.

If you are in an area where the internet may be lagging or connection is too slow to download, let us know. We would be happy to upload these resources onto a USB stick and send them on to you.

If you would like a USB and or any hard copies of our posters and also if you have any feedback on our resources please send us an email at

Also don't forget to follow our Young Deadly Free Facebook Page and check out our Young Deadly Free website Young Deadly Free where you can find many more useful resources on STIs and BBVs relevant for Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander Communities.

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Syphilis jumps to Western Australia

Source: ABC News— 17 Mar 2018

Some sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise in Western Australia, with Aboriginal communities in the north hit particularly hard by a syphilis outbreak.

Across the population, Syphilis has more than doubled the five-year average, up 112 per cent. More than 95 per cent of cases reported in Perth were in men.

However the rate increased by 38 per cent among Aboriginal people, associated with an ongoing outbreak in the Kimberley region, and decreased by 13 per cent among non-Aboriginal people.

Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said Aboriginal people in the north had been failed.

Read more at ABC News

Registered nurses take action on HIV/AIDS by producing documentary

Source: Regina Leader-Post— 26 April 2018

Responding to a growing epidemic in the province in a non-traditional way, registered nurses have produced a documentary entitled On the Frontlines of the HIV Crisis.

“We know that there is an epidemic of HIV — probably one of the largest epidemics there’s been in Saskatchewan in quite some time,” SUN president Tracy Zambory said in a recent interview. “We are seeing more and more people coming into the system affected, and we felt that it was time to shine a light on this crisis, and who better to do it than registered nurses?

“We’re the ones on the frontlines. We’re the ones who see it happening.”

Read more at Regina Leader-Post