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Increase In Gonorrhoea At Sexual Health Clinics

THE latest quarterly report of sexually transmitted infections seen by sexual health clinics confirms the upward trend in gonorrhoea.

Sexual health clinics reported an increase of nearly 80 per cent in the gonorrhoea rate in the April to June quarter, compared with the same quarter in 1999.

The Ministry of Health commissioned ESR report shows 156 gonorrhoea cases were reported at sexual health clinics nationwide April-June 2000, compared with 88 cases for the same quarter last year.

This report does not represent the total number of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the community, as data was only collected from sexual health clinics. Other health providers, like GPs, also treat sexually transmitted infections.

The gonorrhoea rate for April-June 2000 is the same as for the previous quarter, January to March 2000. Case numbers are similar to the previous quarter when 165 cases were reported.

The increase over the past twelve months was reported in all regions. Rates doubled in the Northern region, with smaller increases in the Central and Midland regions. Case numbers in the Northern region rose from to 43 to 89; in the Midland region from 32 to 43; in the Central region from 11 to 17; and in the Southern region from 2 to 7.

"The information from these sexual health clinics indicates an increase in the number of gonorrhoea cases in the community. It backs up the rise of gonorrheoa in the population recently reported by laboratories in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Auckland regions," Ministry of Health Senior Public Health Medicine Advisor Dr Alison Roberts said.

The quarterly report showed chlamydia was the most frequently diagnosed STI in sexual health clinics. Clinics reported a 15% increase in the chlamydia rate April-June 2000 compared with the same quarter in 1999. ESR Research Associate Anne McNicholas said the increase could be partly due to the gradual introduction of more sensitive DNA amplification test methods by laboratories.

Sexual health clinics reported a decrease in genital warts and genital herpes infection rates April-June 2000 compared with the same quarter in 1999. The drop could be due to quarterly fluctations in the data rather than a real decrease, Ms McNicholas said.

Dr Roberts said the increasing number of cases being reported was concerning.

"The figures show people are not having safe sex. It highlights the need to use condoms. We also need to remind people that infections like gonorrhoea and chlamydia may be symptomless and that partners also need to be tested and treated," Dr Roberts said.


For further interpretation of the data contact; Anne McNicolas, ESR Research Associate, 04 914 0693

For further nationwide comment contact; Sue McCabe, Ministry of Health Media Advisor, 04 496 2067 or 025 495 989 Ministry Internet Address;

For local comment either ring the following people or your local sexual health clinic (can be contacted through your hospital); Rick Franklin, Auckland Sexual Health Clinic, 09 307 2885 or 021 988 365 Kitty Flannery, Waikato Sexual Health Clinic, 07 839 8732 Noeleen Tanner, Tauranga Sexual Health Clinic, 07 579 8130 Jane MacDonald, Wellington Sexual Health Clinic, 04 385 9879 Ed Coughlan, Christchurch Sexual Health Clinic, 03 364 0485

Background: surveillance of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) using sexual health clinic data

The Ministry of Health commissions the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) to undertake the surveillance of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This surveillance includes the collation of anonymised data on STIs diagnosed at all sexual health clinics in New Zealand.

Because sexual health clinic attendees are a self-selected population the data may not truly predict patterns in the wider population. This surveillance information is useful for identifying trends in the population that attend sexual health clinics, and may provide an alert for changes that are occurring in the wider population

These figures underestimate the true incidence of STIs in New Zealand as over 50% of STIs are likely to be diagnosed by other health providers, such as GPs and family planning clinics.

Surveillance data are collected on the following STIs: Chlamydia (confirmed and probable) Gonorrhoea (confirmed and probable) Genital warts (1st diagnosis) Genital herpes (1st diagnosis) Syphilis Non-specific urethritis (NSU); males only Chancroid Granuloma inguinale (GI) Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV)

This report is made public and circulated to health providers to raise awareness about the risk of sexually transmitted infections. It reinforces the need; for health providers to diagnose, test for and treat STIs and for people to visit their doctor or sexual health clinic if they have concerns as diagnosis and early treatment are likely to decrease the risk of complications.

Facts on safe sex; safe sex means preventing blood or sexual fluid from passing between partners there are many ways to make sure sex is safe, including correct use of condoms and only having one sexual partner safe sex is essential in controlling the spread of sexually transmitted infections every sexually active person needs to take responsibility for their health and be aware of the risks of sexual activity and how they can make it safer sexually transmitted infections can be symptomless and left untreated can lead to long term problems including fertility partners also need to be tested and treated

Sue McCabe Media Advisor Communications DDI: 496 2067 Fax: 496 2010 Ministry of Health

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