Young Deadly Syphilis Free Campaign

About the campaign

Young Deadly Syphilis Free is a multi-strategy STI awareness-raising campaign, developed in response to the ongoing syphilis outbreak affecting regional and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in:

  • northern and western Queensland, including the Torres Strait Islands
  • the Northern Territory
  • the Kimberley region of Western Australia
  • the Far North and Western regions of South Australia.

Now in its third phase, the campaign has been developed by the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), with funding provided by the Australian Government Department of Health.

The campaign’s focus is on encouraging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 15 to 34 to test for syphilis and other STIs to assist in bringing the outbreak under control. The aim of the campaign is that 30,000 young people in communities affected by the syphilis outbreak test for STIs by June 2019.

The challenges

The syphilis outbreak continues to evolve.

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 [PDF: 319 KB] 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.

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).

There have now been 7 deaths due to congenital syphilis (3 confirmed; 4 probable). We urgently need strong and concerted cross-jurisdictional actions to increase STI and BBV testing rates for young people in regional and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to stop new infections, and ensure early diagnosis and treatment.

Source: February 2021 Surveillance Report