Young people are a new priority group, included in this second strategy because of the importance of working with all young people who are sexually active. Australia’s National Sex Survey14 indicates that 50% of young people have had their first sexual intercourse by the time they are 1615 and found that more than one quarter of year 10 students and more than half of year 12 students have had sexual intercourse. A recent sero-survey of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls aged 16 to 19 years had a HSV2 rate of 22% compared to the rate of 12% for all other Australian women.16 This evidence strongly supports the potential health benefits of sex education and targeted health promotion for young people.

Based on STI prevalence data, this population is at greatest risk of:

  • increasingly higher rates of STIs
  • earlier sexual debut than previous cohorts of young people
  • higher rates of partner change
  • limited health literacy and health skills
  • barriers to service access and use.17
Normal developmental processes such as short-term romantic relationships (or serial monogamy) and risk-taking are important for healthy adolescent adjustment, but may expose young people to a greater risk of contracting STIs.18 Factors defining the behavioural, cultural and social contexts (such as alcohol and peer norms) may also contribute to this risk.19, 20, 21

Top of Page In 2008, slightly more than 25% of all chlamydia infections were in the 15 to 19–year–old age group and nearly a further 65% were notified in 20 to 29–year–olds. In the younger group, women had nearly three times the notifications as men, whereas 20 to 29–year–old women had 1.4 times as many cases notified as men in the same age group. Chlamydia notifications have increased across all age groups by 60% over the period 2004–08, but most steeply in the 15 to 29–year–old age groups.[22

The needs of young people who are homeless, those in juvenile detention, same-sex-attracted young people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young peoples are also important.23 Local data (such as educational and socio-economic status, cultural background and institutional risk) will help further identify individual groups of young people in need. An understanding of this broad priority population group reveals that a wide variety of strategies and approaches is required to address the diversity of experience and needs of young people in relation to STIs.24

Top of Page
14 Australian Research Centre in Sex Health and Society, 2003, National Sex Survey, La Trobe University.
15 Australian Research Centre in Sex Health and Society, 2009, National Secondary School Survey of Sexual Health and HIV, La Trobe University.
16 Brazzale AG, Russell DB, Cunningham AL, Taylor J & McBride WJH, ‘Seroprevalence of herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 amongst the Indigenous population of Cape York, Far North Queensland, Australia’, In press.
17 Henderson M, Wight D, Raab GM, Abraham C, Parkes A & Scott S, et al., ‘Impact of a theoretically based sex education programme (SHARE) delivered by teachers on NHS registered conceptions and terminations: final results of cluster randomised trial’, British Medical Journal 2007 doi: 10.1136/bmj.39014.503692.55.
18 Dilorio C, Kelley M & Hochenberry-Eaton M, ‘Communication about sexual issues: mothers, fathers and friends’, Journal of Adolescent Health, 1999;24: pp. 181–9. CrossRef][ISI][Medline].
19 Paton D, ‘Random behaviour or rational choice? Family planning, teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections’, Sex Education, 2006;6: pp. 281–308.
20 Skinner SR, Parsons A, Kang M, Williams H & Fairley C, International Journal of Adolescent Medical Health, 2007;19(3): pp. 285–294, ‘Sexually transmitted infections, Initiatives for prevention, NSW Department of Health (2006)’, NSW Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategy: Environmental Scan 2006–2009, Sydney.
21 Wilkinson P, French R, Kane R, Lachowycz K, Stephenson J & Grundy C, et al., Teenage conceptions, abortions, and births in England, 1994–2003, and the national teenage pregnancy strategy. Lancet 2006;368; pp. 1819–86.[CrossRef] [ISI][Medline].
22 National Centre for HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, 2009, Annual Surveillance Report, University of New South Wales.
23 Skinner SR, Parsons A, Kang M, Williams H & Fairley C, International Journal of Adolescent Medical Health, 2007;19(3): pp. 285–294, Sexually Transmitted Infections, Initiatives for prevention NSW Department of Health, 2006, NSW Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategy: Environmental Scan 2006–2009, Sydney, published online 20 October 2009.
24 Skinner SR, Parsons A, Kang M, Williams H & Fairley C, International Journal of Adolescent Medical Health, 2007;19(3): pp. 285–294, Sexually Transmitted Infections, Initiatives for prevention NSW Department of Health, 2006, NSW Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategy: Environmental Scan 2006–2009, Sydney, published online 2009.