Second National Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategy 2010 - 2013

6.1.2 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Page last updated: July 2010

Addressing, understanding and incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural expectations and values is fundamental to effective health promotion. Approaches that strengthen individual and community capacity to improve knowledge and understanding, and modify attitudes and behaviours, are valued. The presentation of gendered, integrated health promotion programs is important for this priority group.

Health promotion and education initiatives for most young people in Australia are delivered through school-based programs. A greater proportion of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are outside the school system. They need to have access to and be supported by access to equitable levels of health promotion, education testing, immunisation and clinical services. Education programs for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples therefore need to respond to the social, cultural and environmental context in which they live. The high rates of teenage pregnancy in this community suggest the need to develop education programs that promote healthy living, responsible parenthood, avoidance of mother-to-child transmission of infectious disease, and building capacity to make choices in relationships. These issues will be explored through the recent National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Development.

There is evidence that peer education and social marketing are effective interventions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.38 Pilot programs for young people have recently commenced at six sites across Australia, focusing on STI and BBV health promotion and employing techniques such as social marketing, peer education and awareness activities. Findings from these evaluations will guide further action during the implementation of this strategy.

The rate of infectious syphilis in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population (especially in young women) is much higher than in the non-Indigenous population. While there has been some success in reducing infectious syphilis over recent years in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities (such as downward trends in the Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia), a greater national focus is required to work towards eliminating infectious syphilis in this population group. Given the diversity within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and service settings, a jurisdiction-led response that strengthens comprehensive sexual health programs in the primary care setting will be developed for communities affected by syphilis. This may include strategies and detailed implementations plans for improving syphilis testing, contact tracing and follow-up, as well as health-provider and community education.

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38 Powell F, 2008, Mooditj impact evaluation: report to FPWA Sexual Health Services Perth: FPWA Sexual Health services, <http://www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/health-resources/programs-projects?pid=301>. Snake Condom program Marie Stopes, <http://www.mariestopes.org.au>.