/It wasnt a big deal: Politician admits to STI to reduce stigma

It wasnt a big deal: Politician admits to STI to reduce stigma

Updated

May 15, 2019 12:58:39

An ACT politician has revealed she once contracted chlamydia in a speech calling for action to reduce the stigma around sexually transmitted diseases.

Key points:

  • Tara Cheyne says she wants the treatment and testing of STIs to become normalised
  • A report in 2017 indicated the national STI infection rate had jumped by 13 per cent in three years
  • Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris welcomes Ms Cheyne’s call for improved services

Government whip Tara Cheyne made the admission in the ACT Legislative Assembly while putting forward a motion in support of improved sexual health outreach and the establishment of an annual sexual health week in Canberra.

She said she was diagnosed with chlamydia at 21 and was treated.

“It was incredibly straightforward, it wasn’t a big deal,” Ms Cheyne said.

“What would have been a big deal is if I didn’t get tested and if I didn’t get treated.”

Ms Cheyne, who was elected as part of ACT Labor in 2016, has publicly spoken several times about getting STI checks, but today took that message further.

“I’m not saying that everyone should be going around talking about when and if they are getting testing and what those results are,” she said.

“Or how many boxes of condoms they might be buying weekly.

“But I’m of the firm view that there should be no shame in it, so I’m going to walk my own talk.”

She said she hoped being open about her experience would encourage others who might be unsure about getting tested to “take the step”.

“It’s pretty plain that we’ve got a serious problem on our hands,” she said.

Data suggests infections are on the rise

Chlamydia is one of the ACT’s most infectious diseases, with 1,576 cases detected last year.

Ms Cheyne claimed evidence was emerging that rates of STIs and blood-borne viruses were increasing faster than rates of testing.

According to national health data from the Kirby Institute’s annual report, there were 100,755 chlamydia notifications in Australia in 2017 — an increase of 13 per cent since 2014.

Ms Cheyne praised Canberra’s sexual health services as “first rate” but said more could be done.

She called for a community-based sexual health outreach program to be established to improve awareness and increase rates of testing.

Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris welcomed the proposal, saying health professionals would consult on a model.

“There is value in such a comprehensive approach to such a wide sweeping social and health issue,” she said.

Ms Fitzharris said ACT Health had been asked to consider an annual sexual health week.

Topics:

health,

states-and-territories,

sexually-transmitted-diseases,

sexual-health,

canberra-2600,

australia,

act

First posted

May 15, 2019 12:22:02