14 September 2016

Gonorrhoea increase sparks safe sex warning

Western Australians are being reminded about the importance of practising safe sex, following a significant rise in the number of people diagnosed with the sexually transmitted infection (STI), gonorrhoea.

Over the past five years, notifications of gonorrhoea in the metropolitan area have more than doubled, increasing from 684 notifications in 2011 to 1432 notifications in 2015.

Across Western Australia, more than 2000 confirmed cases have already been reported in 2016. People aged 20-39 years account for the vast majority of recent cases.

WA Health Communicable Disease Control Directorate Director, Dr Paul Armstrong said the sharp increase in gonorrhoea notifications showed that the safe sex message was not being heard by all.

“Gonorrhoea was once an infection that disproportionally affected Aboriginal people and gay and homosexually active men (MSM), however a large portion of new cases are spread across heterosexual, and non-Aboriginal men and women in metropolitan Perth,” Dr Armstrong said.

“Gonorrhoea will often not display any symptoms so it’s important that anyone who has had unsafe sex visits their doctor or sexual health clinic for an STI test.”

Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria. The infection can be spread through unprotected oral, anal or vaginal sex.

If not detected and treated early, gonorrhoea can lead to infertility in both men and women. In rare cases, the infection can spread to the joints, heart and brain, causing permanent damage.

Dr Armstrong said testing for gonorrhoea was simple, usually involving a urine test and possibly a swab of the affected area.

“Once detected, gonorrhoea can be easily treated with antibiotics, but of course, prevention is always the best cure,” he said.

“People can reduce their risks of getting gonorrhoea (and other STIs) by following some simple steps including always using condoms or dams and water-based lubricant, limiting the number of sexual partners, and having regular STI checks if they have new, casual or regular sexual partners.”

Dr Armstrong said WA Health would continue to build on its existing strategies to inform and educate Western Australians about safe sex practices.

For more information about sexually transmitted infections, including how to get tested, visit Could I have it (external site).

Information about gonorrhoea can be found on HealthyWA (external site).

ENDS

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