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Date posted: 7 October 2011
Indigenous health expert, James Ward from the University of New South Wales's Kirby Institute, says programs that have a proven track record must be rolled out nationally to address high rates of sexually transmissible infections (STIs) in Aboriginal communities. Mr Ward said it was no good trying out 'short cut, sure to fail' plans like a mass treatment program currently proposed for the Northern Territory. He said international evidence suggested these kinds of programs reduced STI rates temporarily but the numbers soon bounced back up.
Instead, governments should look at sexual health programs proven to work, like the Eight ways model developed by the Nganampa Health Council in South Australia. 'These interventions (in the Northern Territory) fly in the face of evidence of what has just been achieved across the border in South Australia,' Mr Ward told a sexual health conference recently in Canberra. 'Nganampa Health Council has reduced community prevalence rates for chlamydia, gonorrhoea and infectious syphilis from around 20 per cent to just around five or six per cent currently.'
Mr Ward, who heads the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health program at the Kirby Institute, said the key to improving STI rates were more investment in Aboriginal community health workers and making sure the whole healthcare workforce had necessary skills and knowledge about STI control.