Demand Explosion For Victoria’s Only Free Sexual Health Clinic

Demand Explosion For Victoria’s Only Free Sexual Health Clinic

Posted by Lexi Abner on Jan 28, 2020

Victoria has just one free, government-funded sexual health clinic anyone can visit.

It caters to a population of over six million.

Naturally it’s busy.

If you want a comparison, New South Wales has 37 such centres across the state—with only about a million extra citizens.

That means if you live in Victoria and want to seek free sexual health testing or treatment you might be in for a bit of a wait.

Victorians find it’s not uncommon to wait up to three hours to be tested then still be turned away.

Big Demand For Victoria’s Only Free Sexual Health Clinic

Struggling To Manage Sexual Health Clinics

Demand on services at the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre has been increasing for the past decade. Consultations have practically doubled in the last ten years from 31,452 to 55,862. That demand growth will continue with consultations on track to top 60,000 in 2019.

A survey carried out in 20148 by the clinic showed the waiting times were “least liked” by clients.

On Carlton's Swanston Street, on the north of Melbourne's CBD, the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre has even been forced to close its doors temporarily according to facility director Christopher Fairley.

“Our staff are fabulous but they're tired,” Professor Fairley said. “The service is at the stage where it is struggling to manage.”

Why The Demand for Sexual Health Clinics in Australia?

Free makes the centre popular.

No Medicare card is required. It’s anonymous. Information isn’t shared with a family GP, unless you request it be.

The growth of international students at Melbourne and RMIT universities is another factor.

“They're not sure of what their overseas health insurance will actually cover,” sexual health worker Peter Locke said.

Perhaps one of the major reasons though is the general rising rates of STI in Australia and other developing countries.

Gonorrhoea cases seen by the Victoria clinic grew over 1,000% from 193 cases in 2008 to 2,333 in 2018. Meanwhile syphilis cases also increased by nearly 300% from 93 in 2008 to 361 in 2018.

Reasons for the STI increase according to Professor Fairley include a lack of condom use and “hook-up” apps such as Tinder.

These statistics emphasise the importance of free, regular and easily assessable sexual health testing.

“The more people that we have tested, the more people we have treated and the less ongoing transmission of STIs,” Peter Locke said.

The Unnecessary Spread of STIs, Gonorrhoea, Syphilis

The Victorian Government Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said a report has been completed on sexual health services, and she was “carefully considering” the findings.

“We want all Victorians to be able to access the world-class healthcare they need right across the system,” she said.

As Professor Fairley points out: “You can't have a situation where someone with a genital ulcer from syphilis comes to a service like this and can't be seen or has to wait two hours and decides to walk out. That means that those infections will be passed on unnecessarily.”

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