Syphilis

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Epidemiology


Epidemiology  is the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events. Various methods can be used to carry out epidemiological investigations: surveillance and descriptive studies can be used to study distribution; analytical studies are used to study determinants (World Health Organisation 2019). Surveillance data and epidemiological analysis provides essential information for:

    • Planning disease interventions
    • Background for determining public health priorities
    • Development of focused evidence based policy

Over the last 5 years (2013-2017) the notification rate of infectious syphilis has increased by 135%.  This increase is largely attributed to outbreaks occurring in two different populations:

    • Young (15-29 year olds) heterosexual Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people residing in predominately regional and remote areas in Northern and Central Australia.
    • Non-Indigenous men who have sex with men (MSM) residing primarily in urban areas.

The greatest proportion of syphilis notifications nationally are in non-Indigenous males (approximately 70% in 2017), however the distribution of cases within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is disproportionately higher.  In 2017, the notification rate in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population was almost 7 times higher than the non-Indigenous population. In remote and very remote areas this increases to 27 times higher.

Infectious syphilis notification rate per 100 000, 2008–2017, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status

Source:  HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia: annual survelliance report.

Further information on the epidemiology of infectious syphilis is available in the the Kirby Institute  HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia: annual survelliance report.