Time to get tested! Preventing STIs in Canberra’s Youth.

UTS Journalism, 2019

Chlamydia rates are at the highest reported since records began in 1996, both in the ACT and nationwide. The latest report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has revealed that teenaged women between the ages of 15-19 are reporting infections at the highest rate, followed closely by men aged between 20-24.

With the highest rates of infection occurring in school aged adolescents and young people fresh out of high school, the pressure is on for educators to keep students informed, empowered, and tested. Burgmann Anglican School’s Bronwyn Collins and Cath Amesbury are seeking to change these statistics with comprehensive education programs.  

“I’m a massive, massive advocate for very clear sex-ed. Sex ed is a lifelong skill that the kids can draw on every day for the rest of their lives – not everything we do at school does but this is certainly one of those things that is a lifelong skill,” said Ms Collins, “the most important thing is the openness, having a safe environment for kids to ask questions.”

Source: National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System, 2019

“We do all the typical things, the consequences, the responsibility, and the potential to do permanent harm,” said Ms Amesbury, discussing how educators implement the latest ACARA guidelines for Physical Health and Wellbeing in the classroom. “We always give them…an assessment task… they have to look at their local areas and see what health support is out there for them, depending on whether we’re looking at sexual health, at alcohol or drugs abuse, or even fitness areas…We go right into all of it,” she said.

ACT Member for Ginninderra, Tara Cheyne, is working to change the barriers to accessing sexual health services within the nation’s capital and lower its rates of infection. After making headlines with her admission of contracting chlamydia in her early twenties, Ms Cheyne has put forward a motion to establish further government support of community-based outreach for sexual health testing.

“What I would like to see are more outreach services, where the service comes to you. Whether that’s coming somewhere that’s really popular for other people or out to communities we know are high risk,” she said, “I think when people see their peers getting tested…it’s the chance for them to go “yeah, it’s no big deal.”

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