Each year, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Program collaborates with the Surveillance and Evaluation Program for Public Health on the Blood-borne viral and sexually transmitted infections in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: Annual Surveillance Report.
This surveillance report provides information on the occurrence of blood borne viruses and sexually transmitted infections among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia for the purposes of stimulating and supporting discussion on ways forward in minimising the transmission risks, as well as the personal and social consequences of these infections within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The report is produced in a format that is recognised as appropriate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services and communities, and is overseen by the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Advisory Committee.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to experience a disproportionate burden of disease. The age-standardised rate of HIV diagnoses increased by 41% in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population between 2013 and 2016, compared with a 12% decline in non-Indigenous people, and in 2017 the rates were 1.6 times that of the non-Indigenous population. In the same period, the rate of hepatitis C diagnoses increased by 15%, while diagnoses in the non-Indigenous population decreased by 12%. In 2017, rates of chlamydia, gonorrhoea and infectious syphilis were 3, 7 and 7 times greater than the non–Indigenous population, with even more substantial differences in remote and very remote areas. Since 2011, there has also been a resurgence of infectious syphilis in regional and remote communities in central and Northern Australia, including cases of congenital syphilis, rates of which are dramatically higher in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.
There is some good news. Rates of diagnosis of hepatitis B in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people decreased by 37%, reducing the gap of infection rates between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the non-Indigenous population. Genital warts, once the most common STI managed at sexual health clinics, have decreased significantly, following the introduction of the national vaccination program for human papillomavirus (HPV) in 2007. Since then, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 21 years or younger being diagnosed with genital warts at their first sexual health clinic has reduced by 82% in men and 100% in women.