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,”

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