Christopher Carter, CEO, North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network
Epidemics are nasty things, not least because they refuse to arrive in an orderly fashion, one by one.
So while Melburnians were largely focused on fighting COVID-19, another epidemic is playing out in the background.
In recent years, the number of sexually transmitted diseases or STDs has increased sharply and our region is one of the hot spots. For a variety of reasons, primary care physicians and sexual health clinics see patients with various STDs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.
Unlike the coronavirus or the flu, sexually transmitted diseases are not often talked about in public, but it’s important that we put that hesitation behind us and start a conversation. Keeping STDs a secret and not seeking treatment can lead to chronic and serious health problems – for you and for others who may not know they are at risk.
Many people are embarrassed to go to their doctor with symptoms that could indicate a sexually transmitted disease, but they don’t have to. Doctors see STDs almost every day of the week.
STDs are easily treated, but they can get annoying if you let them last too long. Late-stage STDs can be challenging, especially for women. Some infections can be passed on to babies during pregnancy. This can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or serious abnormalities.
Understandably, many people with newly diagnosed conditions are uncomfortable with the next very important step in the process: informing sex partners.
Well, the good news is that for those who don’t feel like having that conversation, you can do it anonymously. The Melbourne Sexual Health Center (MSHC) has a service called lethemknow.org.au, and Thorne Harbor Health has a similar service on its website, the drama down under.
All general practitioners know how to treat STDs, there are also some who make it a specialty. It is worth noting that MSHC works with six ‘partner clinics’. These are Cranbourne West Medical Center, Kardinia Health, Kings Park Medical Center Hillside, Mediclinic Clayton, Tarneit Family Medical & Dental Center and Yarram District & Health Service. You can find them all on the internet.
STIs are varied and common, sometimes causing no symptoms in the early stages, so experts recommend regular checkups.
Symptoms that may indicate that you have developed one include itching, pain or discomfort, rash, redness, stinging or burning, swelling or inflammation, sores, sores, blisters or spots, weight loss, bleeding, cramps, diarrhea, body discharge, discoloration, growths or lumps, fever, flu-like symptoms, nausea, vomiting and trouble moving.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to make an appointment and get it checked out. It could be nothing, of course, but finding out is the only way to beat this STD epidemic and stay safe and sound.