Sexually transmissible infections

Despite significant improvements in treatment and prevention, sexually transmissible infections (STIs) remain a public health challenge in Australia.

In 2015, there was an estimated 260,000 new cases of chlamydia in 15 – 29 year old Australians, of which only 28% were diagnosed. STIs cause significant health problems that particularly affect women and children, such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, preterm birth and pelvic inflammatory disease.

Our STI research at the Kirby Institute involves the epidemiology, surveillance, microbiology, clinical management and prevention of STIs and includes studies on chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhoea, human papilloma virus, herpes simplex virus and HIV. We work closely with key affected populations including gay men and other men who have sex with men, people living in low and middle income countries and sex workers to design and conduct sexual health research.

STIs in Australia disproportionality impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations. Rates of chlamydia, gonorrhoea and infectious syphilis were 3, 10 and 6 times greater than the non–Indigenous population in 2015, with even more substantial differences in remote and very remote areas. A significant proportion of our STI research is conducted in close collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.

Our STI work extends to the Asia-Pacific region, where we are improving health outcomes for the populations most affected by STIs. We are currently conducting a large trial in Papua New Guinea to evaluate the effectiveness and acceptability of antenatal testing and immediate treatment for STIs to improve pregnancy outcomes. We also conduct a number of research projects around human papilloma virus or HPV. We are conducting a world-first clinical trial to determine whether new treatments can clear pre-cancerous HPV-associated lesions. We are also involved in the evaluation of the National HPV Vaccination Program.

Our STI research strengths