World AIDS Day: How science has turned HIV into a treatable, preventable condition

Source: ABC News, Jeremy Fernandez, 1 December 2021

In just half a lifetime, modern science has turned HIV, one of the most fearsome diseases in human history, into a treatable, preventable condition.

It's a medical marvel that HIV-positive Ruan Uys is reminded of every day.

"I wouldn't be here popping just one pill a day if it wasn't for the people who became HIV positive in the eighties," Ruan said.

"They put their bodies on the line. They trialled new drugs. Blood, sweat, and tears were put into me being able to be here today."

He was born in 1981 – in the very same year the virus began to spread rapidly.

He was diagnosed with HIV in 2014.

Even though treatment options were well advanced by then, the moment he found out his status hit him hard.

"The memories of those ads of people dying were really imprinted on my mind. I didn't know about treatments when I got my diagnosis. I thought, 'is this the end?'" he said.

Read the full story

Don't fool around with syphilis

Source: The Australian Government Department of Health, 29 July 2021

We have launched a campaign on infectious and congenital syphilis. Syphilis is a serious sexually transmissible infection (STI) that causes both immediate and long-term health issues.

Syphilis is treatable with antibiotics, but not everyone with syphilis has symptoms. This means that people often don’t realise they have the infection.

In 2020, notifications of infectious syphilis in Australia increased by nearly 90% from recorded rates in 2015.

Three populations are most at risk:

  • men who have sex with men
  • women of child-bearing age
  • those who live in outbreak areas (including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities).

The campaign will run nationally on a range of online channels, including social media, to raise awareness of syphilis, including:

  • symptoms
  • treatment options
  • how to avoid getting it.

We encourage anyone who is sexually active to get tested regularly for syphilis to help stop the spread of infection.

Visit the campaign website

Syphilis outbreak continues to evolve

Source: The Australian Government Department of Health, 9 April 2021

Multi-jurisdictional Syphilis Outbreak Surveillance Reports

The Multijurisdictional Syphilis Outbreak Group (MJSO) produces surveillance reports (formerly known as communiques) which provide updates on epidemiological data for the syphilis outbreak, and the Group’s activities.Its latest February 2021—30th Surveillance Report shows that 4017 cases of infectious syphilis have been reported among Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people in affected regions of Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia since the syphilis outbreak was declared in January 2011. These cases are predominantly among young people aged 15–29 years.

Between 1–31 January 2021, there were 42 outbreak cases (category 1 and 2 cases) reported from the four outbreak affected jurisdictions: 4 in Qld; 23 in WA; 15 in the NT, and; 0 in SA.

Please note:
On 19 November 2020, the MJSO Working Group endorsed the extension of the ‘target age group’ from 15–29 years to 15–34 years. This change came into effect from the February 2021 Surveillance Report (noting there were no reports produced between November 2020 and January 2021).

Read the full report here

Young people are hungry for good sex education. I found a program in Mexico that gets it right

Source: The Conversation,  Shelly Makleff, 10 March 2021

More than 30,000 people have signed a petition, launched by ex-Sydney school girl Chanel Contos, demanding for consent to be at the forefront of sexual education in schools. The text in the petition states:

Those who have signed this petition have done so because they are sad and angry that they did not receive an adequate education regarding what amounts to sexual assault and what to do when it happens.

The petition encouraged a growing number of harrowing testimonies from young women throughout Australia about their experiences of sexual assault at parties.

School principals, particularly in all-boys schools, have responded by acknowledging the need for a cultural shift. Some schools have gathered students for sessions about consent, others addressed the topic in the classroom, some have asked parents to engage their children in discussions about sexual consent and social norms.

But studies show one-off conversations or education sessions about consent and rape are unlikely to influence long-term change. Interventions need to systematically and gradually address the harmful social norms that underpin a host of interrelated issues including rape culture, intimate partner violence and homophobic bullying.

I evaluated a sexuality education program in Mexico City. My evaluation highlighted a number of factors that can help shift harmful beliefs and behaviours related to gender, sexuality and relationships.

Read the full article

Not as simple as 'no means no': what young people need to know about consent

Source: The Conversation,  Jacqueline Hendriks, 23 February 2021

A recent petition circulated by Sydney school girl Chanel Contos called for schools to provide better education on consent, and to do so much earlier.

In the petition, which since Thursday has been signed by more than 5,000 people, Contos writes that her school

… provided me with life changing education on consent for the first time in year 10. However, it happened too late and came with the tough realisation that amongst my friends, almost half of us had already been raped or sexually assaulted by boys from neighbouring schools.

So, what core information do young people need to know about consent? And is the Australian curriculum set up to teach it?

What’s in the curriculum?

This is not the first time young people have criticised their school programs. Year 12 student Tamsin Griffiths recently called for an overhaul to school sex education after speaking to secondary students throughout Victoria. She advocated for a program that better reflects contemporary issues.

Australia’s health and physical education curriculum does instruct schools to teach students about establishing and maintaining respectful relationships. The resources provided state all students from year 3 to year 10 should learn about matters including:

  • standing up for themselves
  • establishing and managing changing relationships (offline and online)
  • strategies for dealing with relationships when there is an imbalance of power (including seeking help or leaving the relationship)
  • managing the physical, social and emotional changes that occur during puberty
  • practices that support reproductive and sexual health (contraception, negotiating consent, and prevention of sexually transmitted infections and blood-borne viruses)
  • celebrating and respecting difference and diversity in individuals and communities.

Despite national guidance, there is wide variability in how schools interpret the curriculum, what topics they choose to address and how much detail they provide. This is further compounded by a lack of teacher training.

Read the full article

Northern Australia's decade-long syphilis outbreak prompts calls for a national response

Source: ABC News,  Cameron Gooley, 15 January 2021

Key points:

  • An interstate syphilis outbreak has been spreading for 10 years
  • The AMA is calling for a national Centre for Disease Control to respond to the outbreak
  • Aboriginal medical groups are calling for more funding for on-the-ground prevention and treatment

Australia's peak medical body is calling for a coordinated national response to bring an end to a syphilis outbreak that has spread through the country for 10 years.

The sexually transmitted infection is easily treatable but has been moving through parts of Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia since January 2011.

It has primarily affected young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote and rural areas, particularly Northern Australia.

More than 3,600 people have been diagnosed since the outbreak began, according to federal Department of Health data.

"It was fairly clear that there was a very ineffective response to this very significant disease epidemic across four states," the Australian Medical Association's NT president, Dr Robert Parker, said.

"And there was a total lack of coordination from the various states and territories in dealing with it,"

Read the full article

Reducing STI rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people

Source: Health Times,  Charlotte Mitchell, 7 December 2020

More focus on increasing the rates of sexual health testing, and less focus on behaviour change, is the key to addressing high numbers of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people.

Dr Salenna Elliott, Senior Research Fellow and Public Health Medical Registrar at SAHMRI, told HealthTimes “what [our research] is showing us is that the behaviours in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are actually not very different from other groups of young people.”

“A real concern is in remote areas. Once you have a high prevalence of STIs there, it means that whenever a person then has unprotected sex, they are much more likely to be exposed to an STI because those background levels are so much higher.”

Dr Elliot said that in some communities, it is also more difficult to access sexual health care services than in urban settings.

“The more effort we can put into improving STI testing rates, we can actually bring down that background prevalence in those communities where young people are at a much higher risk of exposure when they have unprotected sex.”

Dr Elliott coordinated the second GOANNA survey, an Australia-wide sexual health survey of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Led by SAHMRI researchers in partnership with Aboriginal community organizations, the survey included more than 1,300 participants aged 16-29 from urban, regional and remote parts of mainland Australia...

Read the full article.

Sexual health status of Australia's young Indigenous revealed

Source: Medical Xpress,  South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), 17 November 2020

The results are in for the latest Australia-wide sexual health survey of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The GOANNA Survey was led by SAHMRI researchers in partnership with Aboriginal community organisations and included more than 1,300 participants aged 16-29 from urban, regional and remote parts of mainland Australia.

The survey focused on relationships, sexual behaviors, use of health services and knowledge about sexually transmissible infections (STIs), HIV and hepatitis C.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research leader, Professor James Ward of the University of Queensland (formerly of SAHMRI) led the GOANNA survey for the second time. Prof Ward said rates of STIs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis as well as HIV and hepatitis C, remain unacceptably high in many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, particularly in remote Australia.

"These survey findings provide a snapshot on a range of factors that might contribute to risk for these infections" Prof Ward said.

"We need to make sure that up to date information is available to guide sexual health clinical guidelines, policies and programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities."

Since the first survey (2011-13), the proportion of people who reported using a condom the last time they had sex has dropped from 52% to 40%. There's also been a significant rise in the number of people identifying as LGBTQI, more than doubling from 8% to 18%. Increasing gender and sexual diversity and declines in condom use have also been observed in other surveys of Australian young people in recent years.

STI testing remained stable, with two thirds of participants tested in their lifetime in both surveys. But only half of sexually active teenagers aged 16-19 had ever had an STI test and were considerably less likely to be offered one at a health check-up than young adults. Smoking rates dropped from 40% to 28%. About half of people reported binge drinking and marijuana was the most commonly used drug.

Overwhelmingly, Aboriginal medical services were where people chose to go for health checks, testing for STIs, HIV and hepatitis C, advice on sex and STIs and help for alcohol and drug use, highlighting the need for sexual health care based in Aboriginal medical services.

Read the full article.

Young Deadly Free eNewsletter June 2020

What's new

We wish farewell to Amanda Sibosado.

Amanda has been part of the YDF team since 2017, coordinating resource development. Amanda has an absolute commitment to the sexual health of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and her skills, creativity, and humour shine through in our YDF videos and posters. We’ll all miss her heaps and wish her all the best for the future.



What's news

Young Deadly Free findings from evaluation

The Sexual Health and Blood-borne Virus Applied Research and Evaluation Network (SiREN), in collaboration with SAHMRI, produced two posters summarising selected Young Deadly Free evaluation findings for the youth peer education program and the uptake of the project's health promotion resources.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the communities for supporting the Young Deadly Free project. The project is making an important contribution to improving the sexual health of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities - something that would not have been possible without the whole hearted support of organisations and people in the community.


The following results are for the period 1 July 2017 – 30 June 2019 and are limited to resource access via social media and the Young Deadly Free website only.
Followers engaged with published posts on the Facebook page a total of 53,160 times (the total number of times posts were shared, reacted to, commented on, or clicked on).

  • 723 posts were published on the Facebook page (mainly consisted of images, videos, or links to relevant websites) and reached 363,742 feeds.
  • Young Deadly Free Facebook had 1,016 followers.
  • The Young Deadly Free Facebook page was liked by 945 people.
  • Half of the Facebook likes (49%) were by young people aged under 34 years.
  • Followers were predominantly females (72%) aged between 25-34 years (34%) and 35-44 years (24%).


The Young Deadly Free project produced a comprehensive library of resources, targeting different populations in remote communities: young people; people of influence (e.g., Elders), and remote practice clinicians.

  • The dedicated Young Deadly Free website and Facebook page were the most effective platforms for engagement with the resources.
  • Factsheets, posters, and infographics were the most frequently downloaded website resources while videos received the greatest reach, likes, and shares on Facebook.
  • With the Facebook followers typically female, aged 25-44 years, there is much value in exploring how to better engage males and a younger demographic with sexual health content.
  • Nonetheless, the findings highlight the efficacy of using a dedicated website and social media – especially Facebook – in health promotion targeting remote communities, particularly in instances when the content is associated with cultural sensitivities and the population group is geographically dispersed and varied.
  • The acceptability of the Young Deadly Free resources is attributed to the active engagement of the target groups in the resource development process, which ensured the relevance of the resources to the diverse population.

Read the full evaluation: Reach and uptake of health promotion resources via website and social media


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people report considerably higher notification rates of sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and blood borne viruses (BBVs) when compared with the non-Indigenous population (1). Young people aged 15-29 years and those residing in remote and very remote areas account for a large proportion of all STI and BBV notifications in this population. Peer education has been shown to be beneficial for youth sexual health promotion, however its efficacy for young people living in remote and very remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is unknown.

The program aimed to increase awareness of STIs and BBVs, promote prevention of STIs and BBVs, increase the uptake of STI and BBV testing, and help foster healthy relationships among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged between 16-29 years.

The peer education program forms part of the larger Young Deadly Free project, which was developed by the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) in partnership with Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS), Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia (AHCWA), Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia (AHCSA), Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory (AMSANT), and Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC).

The Young Deadly Free youth peer education program was piloted in 15 remote and very remote communities across four jurisdictions in Australia during 2017-2019

Young people showed knowledge gains from pre to post survey, with increases in the proportion of correct responses reported across each of the 13 questions.

There were marginal differences between males and females in the proportion of correct responses to each knowledge question in the pre and post surveys.

Differences were evident among the age groups, with those aged 23 years and older having the highest proportion of correct responses in the pre and post surveys.

The Young Deadly Free peer education program has made a promising impact on raising sexual health awareness among young people in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, with knowledge gains evident from pre to post survey, as well as in increases in behavioural intentions and agreement levels from pre to post survey.

The survey findings also highlight where to focus health promotion efforts, namely: encouraging testing among 16-18 year olds; enhancing knowledge about BBVs; and the need to normalise STI and BBV testing in the community to reduce concerns about shame and privacy.

The program has the potential to have an enduring impact on participating communities and contribute to a positive shift in the sexual health narrative in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Read the full evaluation: Peer Education Program Findings

Project queries, Professor James Ward:
Evaluation queries, Dr Roanna Lobo:

The Young Deadly Free project and evaluation was funded by the Commonwealth Government Department of Health. Sincere thanks to the project coordinator (A. Sibosado) and to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, organisations, and people who were involved in the development of the health promotion resources.



Increases in infectious syphilis notifications are attributed to an on-going outbreak occurring in young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people residing in northern and central Australia, continued increases among men who have sex with men (MSM) in urban areas of Victoria (Vic) and New South Wales (NSW), and increases in non-Indigenous women residing in urban areas of Vic, NSW, Queensland (Qld) and Western Australia (WA).

Read the full report: June 2020

This surveillance report has been authorised by Health Departments in outbreak affected jurisdictions and the Office of Health Protection.

Social media

Social media is integral to the campaign, with social media platforms used as information hubs for young people to learn about and discuss STIs and testing. Utilising Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Divas Chat, regular posts include news of the campaign and its progress at local levels, using the most popular social media in each zone.


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Young Deadly Free eNewsletter January 2020

What's new

With the Syphilis outbreak continuing across Australia, you may be looking for resources to help tackle the outbreak in your local area.

The Young Deadly Free website has all our videos relating to the syphilis outbreak in one handy area - click here to check them out.

A major focus of the outbreak response is preventing further cases of congenital syphilis. With this in mind, and with feedback from clinical staff in outbreak regions, we developed Antenatal Care: Taking Care of yourself, your baby and each other, a video focusing on the importance of antenatal care which gently sneaks in messaging about the importance of STI testing during pregnancy.

Young Deadly Free Resources.
Need help navigating our awesome resources or choosing what to order for your local community? Check out our updated catalogue

Social media

Young Deadly Free engage with community via our social media pages.

Facebook - Young Deadly Free have 1,178 page likes and 1,268 followers @youngdeadlyfree
Instagram – Young Deadly Free have 314 followers, 404 posts and 33 IGTV videos @youngdeadlyandfree
Twitter - Young Deadly Free joined twitter in October 2019, we have 92 followers and our audience is steadily growing @young_deadly

For young people

“This Is Us”, is a dynamic video mini-series that explores the broad social issues around sexual health. Developed and filmed with Joel Brown and Natasha Wanganeen, and featuring an all Aboriginal cast, “This Is Us” provides a great platform for deep health discussions with young people.

The full series is now available on YouTube and our website.
Check it out here

This project was developed in partnership with Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, and funded by SA Health.

For people of influence

Supporting our LGBTIQ Youth is an important part of our sexual health messaging. A new video targeting youth and the broader community features advice from our mob, for our mob.

Check it out here

For clinicians

New to First Nations’ sexual health? Have new staff have joined your team? A whole range of our clinician video resources could support you with staff orientation. Below are just some examples of what you will find in our clinician resources.

Conferences / meetings

ASHMs 2020 Conference dates have been released - get planning!

If you weren’t aware already, there is a now a FREE online Syphilis Outbreak Training Website via ASHM, see their media release for all the details.

Got a conference or training event you want to promote?
Let us know and we can share on our social media platforms and via our newsletters.

Looking for educational resources, social media resources or clinic resources?
Young Deadly Free have what you need.

Our resources include animations, videos, fact-sheets, posters and more.
All Young Deadly Free resources are free and no sign up is required.

If you would like Young Deadly Free resources on USB check out our new catalogue and send an email order to

Get regular updates by subscribing to our eNewsletter