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1.  Azithromycin-Resistant Syphilis-Causing Strains in Sydney, Australia: Prevalence and Risk Factors 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2014;52(8):2776-2781.
Azithromycin has shown high efficacy in randomized trials when used for treating infectious syphilis in Africa. However, its use in clinical practice has been limited by the development of antimicrobial drug resistance. Resistance has not previously been reported from Australasia. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of and risk factors for azithromycin-resistant syphilis-causing strains in Sydney, Australia. We evaluated 409 samples that were PCR positive for Treponema pallidum DNA collected between 2004 and 2011 for the presence of the A2058G mutation, which confers resistance to macrolide antibiotics such as azithromycin. Overall, 84% of samples harbored the mutation. The prevalence of the mutation increased during the study period (P trend, 0.003). We also collected clinical and demographic data on 220 patients from whom these samples had been collected to determine factors associated with the A2058G mutation; 97% were from men who have sex with men. Reporting sex in countries other than Australia was associated with less macrolide resistance (adjusted odds ratio, 0.25; 95% confidence interval, 0.09 to 0.66; P = 0.005), with other study factors showing no association (age, HIV status, recent macrolide use, stage of syphilis, or history of prior syphilis). Azithromycin cannot be recommended as an alternative treatment for syphilis in Sydney.
PMCID: PMC4136156  PMID: 24850356
2.  Do Australian general practitioners believe practice nurses can take a role in chlamydia testing? A qualitative study of attitudes and opinions 
Chlamydia notifications continue to rise in young people in many countries and regular chlamydia testing is an important prevention strategy. Although there have been initiatives to increase testing in primary care, none have specifically investigated the role of practice nurses (PNs) in maximising testing rates. PNs have previously expressed a willingness to be involved, but noted lack of support from general practitioners (GPs) as a barrier. We sought GPs’ attitudes and opinions on PNs taking an expanded role in chlamydia testing and partner notification.
In the context of a cluster randomised trial in mostly rural towns in 4 Australian states, semi structured interviews were conducted with 44 GPs between March 2011 and July 2012. Data relating to PN involvement in chlamydia testing were thematically analysed using a conventional content analysis approach.
The majority of GPs interviewed felt that a role for PNs in chlamydia testing was appropriate. GPs felt that PNs had more time for patient education and advice, that patients would find PNs easier to talk to and less intimidating than GPs, and that GPs themselves could benefit through a reduction in their workload. Although GPs felt that PNs could be utilised more effectively for preventative health activities such as chlamydia testing, many raised concerns about how these activities would be renumerated whilst some felt that existing workload pressures for PNs could make it difficult for them to expand their role. Whilst some rural GPs recognised that PNs might be well placed to conduct partner notification, they also recognised that issues of patient privacy and confidentiality related to living in a “small town” was also a concern.
This is the first qualitative study to explore GPs’ views around an increased role for PNs in chlamydia testing. Despite the concerns raised by PNs, these findings suggest that GPs support the concept and recognise that PNs are suited to the role. However issues raised, such as funding and remuneration may act as barriers that will need to be addressed before PNs are supported to make a contribution to increasing chlamydia testing rates in general practice.
PMCID: PMC4314754
3.  Improving chlamydia knowledge should lead to increased chlamydia testing among Australian general practitioners: a cross-sectional study of chlamydia testing uptake in general practice 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14(1):584.
Female general practitioners (GPs) have higher chlamydia testing rates than male GPs, yet it is unclear whether this is due to lack of knowledge among male GPs or because female GPs consult and test more female patients.
GPs completed a survey about their demographic details and knowledge about genital chlamydia. Chlamydia testing and consultation data for patients aged 16-29 years were extracted from the medical records software for each GP and linked to their survey responses. Chi-square tests were used to determine differences in a GP’s knowledge and demographics. Two multivariable models that adjusted for the gender of the patient were used to investigate associations between a GP and their chlamydia testing rates ― Model 1 included GPs’ characteristics such as age and gender, Model 2 excluded these characteristics to specifically examine any associations with knowledge.
Female GPs were more likely than male GPs to know when to re-test a patient after a negative chlamydia test (18.8% versus 9.7%, p = 0.01), the correct symptoms suggestive of PID (80.5% versus 67.8%, p = 0.01) and the correct tests for diagnosing PID (57.1% versus 42.6%, p = 0.01). Female GPs tested 6.5% of patients, while male GPs tested 2.2% (p < 0.01). Model 1 found factors associated with chlamydia testing were being a female GP (OR = 2.5, 95% CI: 1.9, 3.3) and working in a metropolitan clinic (OR = 3.2; 95% CI: 2.4, 4.3). Model 2 showed that chlamydia testing increased as knowledge of testing guidelines improved (3-5 correct answers – AOR = 2.0, 95% CI: 1.0, 4.2; 6+ correct answers – AOR = 2.9, 95% CI: 1.4, 6.2).
Higher rates of chlamydia testing are strongly associated with GPs who are female, based in a metropolitan clinic and among those with more knowledge of the recommended guidelines. Improving chlamydia knowledge among male GPs may increase chlamydia testing.
PMCID: PMC4228271  PMID: 25409698
Chlamydia testing; General practice; Sexual health knowledge; General practitioner education
4.  Chlamydia among Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people attending sexual health services, general practices and Aboriginal community controlled health services 
Chlamydia infections are notified at much higher rates in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people compared to non-Indigenous people. The Australian Collaboration Chlamydia Enhanced Sentinel Surveillance System (ACCESS) was established to complement population-based surveillance.
We describe patient demographics, completeness of recording of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander (‘Aboriginal’) status, chlamydia testing rates and positivity rates from the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHSs), General Practice (GP) clinics and Sexual Health Services (SHSs) networks in ACCESS during 2009. Data were extracted from electronic medical records of each participating health service for consultations with patients aged 16–29 years and for chlamydia testing and positivity.
Data were included from 16–29 year olds attending six ACCHSs (n = 4,950); 22 SHSs (n = 20,691) and 25 GP clinics (n = 34,462). Aboriginal status was unknown for 79.3% of patients attending GP clinics, 4.5% attending SHSs and 3.8% of patients attending ACCHSs. Chlamydia testing rates among Aboriginal patients were 19.8% (95%CI:18.6%-21.0%) at ACCHSs, 75.5% (95% CI:72.5%-78.4%) at SHSs and 4.3% (95% CI: 2.6%-6.6%) at GP clinics. Positivity rates were highest in Aboriginal patients tested at SHSs at 22.7% (95% CI:19.5%-26.2%), followed by 15.8% (95% CI:3.8%-43.4%) at GP clinics and 8.6% at ACCHSs (95% CI:7.9%-12.4%). This compared with non-Indigenous patients positivity rates at SHSs of 12.7% (95% CI:12.2-13.2%); 8.6% (7.2%-11.3%) at GP clinics and 11.3% at ACCHSs (95% CI:15.4%-24.9%).
Higher chlamydia positivity in Aboriginal people across a range of clinical services is reflected in national notification data. Targeted efforts are required to improve testing rates in primary care services; to improve identification of Aboriginal patients in mainstream services such as GP clinics; and to better engage with young Aboriginal Australians.
PMCID: PMC4094446  PMID: 24981418
Chlamydia; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; Testing; Positivity; Indigenous; Australia
5.  Analysis of laboratory testing results collected in an enhanced chlamydia surveillance system in Australia, 2008–2010 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14:325.
Chlamydial infection is the most common notifiable disease in Australia, Europe and the US. Australian notifications of chlamydia rose four-fold from 20,274 cases in 2002 to 80,846 cases in 2011; the majority of cases were among young people aged less than 29 years. Along with test positivity rates, an understanding of the number of tests performed and the demographics of individuals being tested are key epidemiological indicators. The ACCESS Laboratory Network was established in 2008 to address this issue.
The ACCESS Laboratory Network collected chlamydia testing data from 15 laboratories around Australia over a three-year period using data extraction software. All chlamydia testing data from participating laboratories were extracted from the laboratory information system; patient identifiers converted to a unique, non-reversible code and de-identified data sent to a single database. Analysis of data by anatomical site included all specimens, but in age and sex specific analysis, only one testing episode was counted.
From 2008 to 2010 a total of 628,295 chlamydia tests were referred to the 15 laboratories. Of the 592,626 individual episodes presenting for testing, 70% were from female and 30% from male patients. In female patients, chlamydia positivity rate was 6.4% overall; the highest rate in 14 year olds (14.3%). In male patients, the chlamydia positivity rate was 9.4% overall; the highest in 19 year olds (16.5%). The most common sample type was urine (57%). In 3.2% of testing episodes, multiple anatomical sites were sampled. Urethral swabs gave the highest positivity rate for all anatomical sites in both female (7.7%) and male patients (14%), followed by urine (7.6% and 9.4%, respectively) and eye (6.3% and 7.9%, respectively).
The ACCESS Laboratory Network data are unique in both number and scope and are representative of chlamydia testing in both general practice and high-risk clinics. The findings from these data highlight much lower levels of testing in young people aged 20 years or less; in particular female patients aged less than 16 years, despite being the group with the highest positivity rate. Strategies are needed to increase the uptake of testing in this high-risk group.
PMCID: PMC4061452  PMID: 24920016
Chlamydia trachomatis; ACCESS laboratory network; Surveillance; Sexually transmitted infection
6.  Rationale and design of REACT: a randomised controlled trial assessing the effectiveness of home-collection to increase chlamydia retesting and detect repeat positive tests 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14:223.
Repeat infection with Chlamydia trachomatis is common and increases the risk of sequelae in women and HIV seroconversion in men who have sex with men (MSM). Despite guidelines recommending chlamydia retesting three months after treatment, retesting rates are low. We are conducting the first randomised controlled trial to assess the effectiveness of home collection combined with short message service (SMS) reminders on chlamydia retesting and reinfection rates in three risk groups.
The REACT (retest after Chlamydia trachomatis) trial involves 600 patients diagnosed with chlamydia: 200 MSM, 200 women and 200 heterosexual men recruited from two Australian sexual health clinics where SMS reminders for retesting are routine practice. Participants will be randomised to the home group (3-month SMS reminder and home-collection) or the clinic group (3-month SMS reminder to return to the clinic). Participants in the home group will be given the choice of attending the clinic if they prefer. The mailed home-collection kit includes a self-collected vaginal swab (women), UriSWAB (Copan) for urine collection (heterosexual men), and UriSWAB plus rectal swab (MSM). The primary outcome is the retest rate at 1-4 months after a chlamydia diagnosis, and the secondary outcomes are: the repeat positive test rate; the reinfection rate; the acceptability of home testing with SMS reminders; and the cost effectiveness of home testing. Sexual behaviour data collected via an online survey at 4-5 months, and genotyping of repeat infections, will be used to discriminate reinfections from treatment failures. The trial will be conducted over two years. An intention to treat analysis will be conducted.
This study will provide evidence about the effectiveness of home-collection combined with SMS reminders on chlamydia retesting, repeat infection and reinfection rates in three risk groups. The trial will determine client acceptability and cost effectiveness of this strategy.
Trial registration
Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12611000968976.
PMCID: PMC4002559  PMID: 24758169
Chlamydia; Retesting; Positivity; Reinfection; Home-collection
7.  Hospitalisations for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Temporally Related to a Diagnosis of Chlamydia or Gonorrhoea: A Retrospective Cohort Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e94361.
The presence and severity of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) symptoms are thought to vary by microbiological etiology but there is limited empirical evidence. We sought to estimate and compare the rates of hospitalisation for PID temporally related to diagnoses of gonorrhoea and chlamydia.
All women, aged 15–45 years in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW), with a diagnosis of chlamydia or gonorrhoea between 01/07/2000 and 31/12/2008 were followed by record linkage for up to one year after their chlamydia or gonorrhoea diagnosis for hospitalisations for PID. Standardised incidence ratios compared the incidence of PID hospitalisations to the age-equivalent NSW population.
A total of 38,193 women had a chlamydia diagnosis, of which 483 were hospitalised for PID; incidence rate (IR) 13.9 per 1000 person-years of follow-up (PYFU) (95%CI 12.6–15.1). In contrast, 1015 had a gonorrhoea diagnosis, of which 45 were hospitalised for PID (IR 50.8 per 1000 PYFU, 95%CI 36.0–65.6). The annual incidence of PID hospitalisation temporally related to a chlamydia or gonorrhoea diagnosis was 27.0 (95%CI 24.4–29.8) and 96.6 (95%CI 64.7–138.8) times greater, respectively, than the age-equivalent NSW female population. Younger age, socio-economic disadvantage, having a diagnosis prior to 2005 and having a prior birth were also associated with being hospitalised for PID.
Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are both associated with large increases in the risk of PID hospitalisation. Our data suggest the risk of PID hospitalisation is much higher for gonorrhoea than chlamydia; however, further research is needed to confirm this finding.
PMCID: PMC3990571  PMID: 24743388
8.  A Laboratory-Based Evaluation of Four Rapid Point-of-Care Tests for Syphilis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91504.
Syphilis point-of-care tests may reduce morbidity and ongoing transmission by increasing the proportion of people rapidly treated. Syphilis stage and co-infection with HIV may influence test performance. We evaluated four commercially available syphilis point-of-care devices in a head-to-head comparison using sera from laboratories in Australia.
Point-of-care tests were evaluated using sera stored at Sydney and Melbourne laboratories. Sensitivity and specificity were calculated by standard methods, comparing point-of-care results to treponemal immunoassay (IA) reference test results. Additional analyses by clinical syphilis stage, HIV status, and non-treponemal antibody titre were performed. Non-overlapping 95% confidence intervals (CI) were considered statistically significant differences in estimates.
In total 1203 specimens were tested (736 IA-reactive, 467 IA-nonreactive). Point-of-care test sensitivities were: Determine 97.3%(95%CI:95.8–98.3), Onsite 92.5%(90.3–94.3), DPP 89.8%(87.3–91.9) and Bioline 87.8%(85.1–90.0). Specificities were: Determine 96.4%(94.1–97.8), Onsite 92.5%(90.3–94.3), DPP 98.3%(96.5–99.2), and Bioline 98.5%(96.8–99.3). Sensitivity of the Determine test was 100% for primary and 100% for secondary syphilis. The three other tests had reduced sensitivity among primary (80.4–90.2%) compared to secondary syphilis (94.3–98.6%). No significant differences in sensitivity were observed by HIV status. Test sensitivities were significantly higher among high-RPR titre (RPR≥8) (range: 94.6–99.5%) than RPR non-reactive infections (range: 76.3–92.9%).
The Determine test had the highest sensitivity overall. All tests were most sensitive among high-RPR titre infections. Point-of-care tests have a role in syphilis control programs however in developed countries with established laboratory infrastructures, the lower sensitivities of some tests observed in primary syphilis suggest these would need to be supplemented with additional tests among populations where syphilis incidence is high to avoid missing early syphilis cases.
PMCID: PMC3950184  PMID: 24618681
9.  The chlamydia knowledge, awareness and testing practices of Australian general practitioners and practice nurses: survey findings from the Australian Chlamydia Control Effectiveness Pilot (ACCEPt) 
BMC Family Practice  2013;14:169.
ACCEPt, a large cluster randomized control trial, aims to determine if annual testing for 16 to 29 year olds in general practice can reduce chlamydia prevalence. ACCEPt is the first trial investigating the potential role of practice nurses (PN) in chlamydia testing. To inform the design of the ACCEPt intervention, we aimed to determine the chlamydia knowledge, attitudes, and testing practices of participating general practitioners (GPs) and PNs.
GPs and PNs from 143 clinics recruited from 52 areas in 4 Australian states were asked to complete a survey at time of recruitment. Responses of PNs and GPs were compared using conditional logistic regression to account for possible intra cluster correlation within clinics.
Of the PNs and GPs enrolled in ACCEPt, 81% and 72% completed the questionnaire respectively. Less than a third of PNs (23%) and GPs (32%) correctly identified the two age groups with highest infection rates in women and only 16% vs 17% the correct age groups in men. More PNs than GPs would offer testing opportunistically to asymptomatic patients aged ≤25 years; women having a pap smear (84% vs 55%, P<0.01); antenatal checkup (83% vs 44%, P<0.01) and Aboriginal men with a sore throat (79% vs 33%, P<0.01), but also to patients outside of the guideline age group at the time of the survey; 26 year old males presenting for a medical check (78% vs 30%, P = <0.01) and 33 year old females presenting for a pill prescription (83% vs 55%, P<0.01). More PNs than GPs knew that retesting was recommended after chlamydia treatment (93% vs 87%, P=0.027); and the recommended timeframe was 3 months (66% vs 26%, P<0.01). A high proportion of PNs (90%) agreed that they could conduct chlamydia testing in general practice, with 79% wanting greater involvement and 89% further training.
Our survey reveals gaps in chlamydia knowledge and management among GPs and PNs that may be contributing to low testing rates in general practice. The ACCEPt intervention is well targeted to address these and support clinicians in increasing testing rates. PNs could have a role in increasing chlamydia testing.
PMCID: PMC3827502  PMID: 24219113
10.  A randomised trial of point-of-care tests for chlamydia and gonorrhoea infections in remote Aboriginal communities: Test, Treat ANd GO- the “TTANGO” trial protocol 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2013;13:485.
High prevalence rates of Chlamydia trachomatis (CT) and Neisseria gonorrhoeae (NG) have been reported in Aboriginal people in remote and regional areas of Australia for well over two decades, and repeat positivity rates are high. To interrupt disease transmission and reduce the risk of complications, early diagnosis and treatment is important. However in many remote and regional areas there are long delays between testing for these curable sexually transmissible infections and providing treatment, due to both physical distance from laboratories and difficulties when recalling patients for subsequent management once results are available. Point-of-care (POC) tests have the potential to provide more timely diagnosis, to increase treatment and contact tracing, and in turn reduce CT and NG infection rates.
TTANGO (Test, Treat, ANd GO) is a cross-over cluster randomised controlled trial in 12 regional or remote Australian health services, which predominantly provide clinical services to Aboriginal people. The overall aim of TTANGO is to measure the clinical effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and cultural and operational acceptability of molecular POC testing for CT and NG infection. The primary outcome is repeat positivity at three months after treatment of an initial CT or NG infection.
Participating health services will undertake the clinical management of CT and NG under two different modalities for one year each. In the first year, six health services will be randomly assigned to manage these infections under current diagnostic guidelines. The other six will supplement current diagnostic guidelines with POC testing, whereby diagnosis is made and subsequent treatment for those with positive POC tests is offered at the initial consultation. In the second year, the health services will cross over to the opposite management modality.
TTANGO will be conducted over four years; 1.5 years of trial initiation and community consultation, 2 years of trial conditions and evaluation, and 6 months of data analysis and feedback.
TTANGO is the first cluster randomised trial of POC testing for CT and NG internationally. The results of this trial will provide crucial information to guide sexual health clinical practice in remote Aboriginal communities and other high prevalence settings.
Trial registration
Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12613000808741
PMCID: PMC4231474  PMID: 24138699
Point-of-care testing; Sexually transmitted infections; Randomized controlled trial
11.  STI in remote communities: improved and enhanced primary health care (STRIVE) study protocol: a cluster randomised controlled trial comparing ‘usual practice’ STI care to enhanced care in remote primary health care services in Australia 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2013;13:425.
Despite two decades of interventions, rates of sexually transmissible infections (STI) in remote Australian Aboriginal communities remain unacceptably high. Routine notifications data from 2011 indicate rates of chlamydia and gonorrhoea among Aboriginal people in remote settings were 8 and 61 times higher respectively than in the non-Indigenous population.
STRIVE is a stepped-wedge cluster randomised trial designed to compare a sexual health quality improvement program (SHQIP) to usual STI clinical care delivered in remote primary health care services. The SHQIP is a multifaceted intervention comprising annual assessments of sexual health service delivery, implementation of a sexual health action plan, six-monthly clinical service activity data reports, regular feedback meetings with a regional coordinator, training and financial incentive payments. The trial clusters comprise either a single community or several communities grouped together based on geographic proximity and cultural ties. The primary outcomes are: prevalence of chlamydia, gonorrhoea and trichomonas in Aboriginal residents aged 16–34 years, and performance in clinical management of STIs based on best practice indicators. STRIVE will be conducted over five years comprising one and a half years of trial initiation and community consultation, three years of trial conditions, and a half year of data analysis. The trial was initiated in 68 remote Aboriginal health services in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia.
STRIVE is the first cluster randomised trial in STI care in remote Aboriginal health services. The trial will provide evidence to inform future culturally appropriate STI clinical care and control strategies in communities with high STI rates.
Trial registration
Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12610000358044
PMCID: PMC3847940  PMID: 24016143
Aboriginal; Indigenous; Sexually transmitted infections; Chlamydia; Gonorrhoea; Trichomonas; Continuous quality improvement; Protocol; Prevalence; Remote
12.  Chronic hepatitis B prevalence among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians since universal vaccination: a systematic review and meta-analysis 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2013;13:403.
In Australia, higher rates of chronic hepatitis B (HBsAg) have been reported among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) compared with non-Indigenous people. In 2000, the Australian government implemented a universal infant/adolescent hepatitis B vaccination program. We undertook a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess the disparity of HBsAg prevalence between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, particularly since 2000.
We searched Medline, Embase and public health bulletins up to March 2011. We used meta-analysis methods to estimate HBsAg prevalence by Indigenous status and time period (before and since 2000).
There were 15 HBsAg prevalence estimates (from 12 studies) among Indigenous and non-Indigenous people; adults and pregnant women (n = 9), adolescents (n = 3), prisoners (n = 2), and infants (n = 1). Of these, only one subgroup (adults/pregnant women) involved studies before and since 2000 and formed the basis of the meta-analysis. Before 2000, the pooled HBsAg prevalence estimate was 6.47% (95% CI: 4.56-8.39); 16.72% (95%CI: 7.38-26.06) among Indigenous and 0.36% (95%CI:-0.14-0.86) in non-Indigenous adults/pregnant women. Since 2000, the pooled HBsAg prevalence was 2.25% (95% CI: 1.26-3.23); 3.96% (95%CI: 3.15-4.77) among Indigenous and 0.90% (95% CI: 0.53-1.28) in non-Indigenous adults/pregnant women.
The disparity of HBsAg prevalence between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people has decreased over time; particularly since the HBV vaccination program in 2000. However HBsAg prevalence remains four times higher among Indigenous compared with non-Indigenous people. The findings highlight the need for opportunistic HBV screening of Indigenous people to identify people who would benefit from vaccination or treatment.
PMCID: PMC3846608  PMID: 24004727
Indigenous; HBV; Sexually transmissible infection; STI; Hepatitis
13.  Decline in in-patient treatments of genital warts among young Australians following the national HPV vaccination program 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2013;13:140.
There has been a rapid decline in the number of young heterosexuals diagnosed with genital warts at outpatient sexual health services since the national human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination program started in Australia in 2007. We assessed the impact of the vaccination program on the number of in-patient treatments for genital warts.
Data on in-patient treatments of genital warts in all private hospitals were extracted from the Medicare website. Medicare is the universal health insurance scheme of Australia. In the vaccine period (2007–2011) and pre-vaccine period (2000–2007) we calculated the percentage change in treatment numbers and trends in annual treatment rates in private hospitals. Australian population data were used to calculate rates. Summary rate ratios of average annual trends were determined.
Between 2000 and 2011, 6,014 women and 936 men aged 15–44 years underwent in-patient treatment for genital warts in private hospitals. In 15–24 year old women, there was a significant decreasing trend in annual treatment rates of vulval/vaginal warts in the vaccine period (overall decrease of 85.3% in treatment numbers from 2007 to 2011) compared to no significant trend in the pre-vaccine period (summary rate ratio (SRR) = 0.33, p < 0.001). In 25–34 year old women, declining trends were seen in both vaccine and pre-vaccine periods (overall decrease of 33% vs. 24.3%), but the rate of change was greater in the vaccine period (SRR = 0.60, p < 0.001). In 35–44 year old women, there was no significant change in both periods (SRR = 0.91, p = 0.14). In 15–24 year old men, there was a significant decreasing trend in annual treatment rates of penile warts in the vaccine period (decrease of 70.6%) compared to an increasing trend in the pre-vaccine period (SRR = 0.76, p = 0.02). In 25–34 year old men there was a significant decreasing trend in the vaccine period compared to no change in the pre-vaccine period (SRR = 0.81, p = 0.04) and in 35–44 year old men there was no significant change in rates of penile warts both periods, but the rate of change was greater in the vaccine period (SRR = 0.70, p = 0.02).
The marked decline in in-patient treatment of vulval/vaginal warts in the youngest women is probably attributable to the HPV vaccine program. The moderate decline in in-patient treatments for penile warts in men probably reflects herd immunity.
PMCID: PMC3606327  PMID: 23506489
14.  Prevalent and Incident Bacterial Vaginosis Are Associated with Sexual and Contraceptive Behaviours in Young Australian Women 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e57688.
To determine prevalence and incidence of bacterial vaginosis (BV) and risk factors in young sexually-active Australian women.
1093 women aged 16–25 years were recruited from primary-care clinics. Participants completed 3-monthly questionnaires and self-collected vaginal smears 6-monthly for 12-months. The primary endpoint was a Nugent Score = 7–10 (BV) and the secondary endpoint was a NS = 4–10 (abnormal flora [AF]). BV and AF prevalence estimates and 95% confidence intervals (95%CI) were derived, and adjusted odds ratios (AOR) calculated to explore epidemiological associations with prevalent BV and AF. Proportional-hazards regression models were used to examine factors associated with incident BV and AF.
At baseline 129 women had BV [11.8% (95%CI: 9.4–14.2)] and 188 AF (17.2%; 15.1–19.5). Prevalent BV was associated with having a recent female partner [AOR = 2.1; 1.0–4.4] and lack of tertiary-education [AOR = 1.9; 1.2–3.0]; use of an oestrogen-containing contraceptive (OCC) was associated with reduced risk [AOR = 0.6; 0.4–0.9]. Prevalent AF was associated with the same factors, and additionally with >5 male partners (MSP) in 12-months [AOR = 1.8; 1.2–2.5)], and detection of C.trachomatis or M.genitalium [AOR = 2.1; 1.0–4.5]. There were 82 cases of incident BV (9.4%;7.7–11.7/100 person-years) and 129 with incident AF (14.8%; 12.5–17.6/100 person-years). Incident BV and AF were associated with a new MSP [adjusted rate ratio (ARR) = 1.5; 1.1–2.2 and ARR = 1.5; 1.1–2.0], respectively. OCC-use was associated with reduced risk of incident AF [ARR = 0.7; 0.5–1.0].
This paper presents BV and AF prevalence and incidence estimates from a large prospective cohort of young Australian women predominantly recruited from primary-care clinics. These data support the concept that sexual activity is strongly associated with the development of BV and AF and that use of an OCC is associated with reduced risk.
PMCID: PMC3589386  PMID: 23472099
15.  Home-based chlamydia and gonorrhoea screening: a systematic review of strategies and outcomes 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:189.
In many countries, low Chlamydia trachomatis (CT) and Neisseria gonorrhoeae (NG) screening rates among young people in primary-care have encouraged screening programs outside of clinics. Nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) make it possible to screen people in homes with self-collected specimens. We systematically reviewed the strategies and outcomes of home-based CT/NG screening programs.
Electronic databases were searched for home-based CT and/or NG screening studies published since January 2005. Screening information (e.g. target group, recruitment and specimen-collection method) and quantitative outcomes (e.g. number of participants, tests and positivity) were extracted. The screening programs were classified into seven groups on the basis of strategies used.
We found 29 eligible papers describing 32 home-based screening programs. In seven outreach programs, people were approached in their homes: a median of 97% participants provided specimens and 76% were tested overall (13717 tests). In seven programs, people were invited to receive postal test-kits (PTKs) at their homes: a median of 37% accepted PTKs, 79% returned specimens and 19% were tested (46225 tests). PTKs were sent along with invitation letters in five programs: a median of 33% returned specimens and 29% of those invited were tested (15126 tests). PTKs were requested through the internet or phone without invitations in four programs and a median of 32% returned specimens (2666 tests). Four programs involved study personnel directly inviting people to receive PTKs: a median of 46% accepted PTKs, 21% returned specimens and 9.1% were tested (341 tests). PTKs were picked-up from designated locations in three programs: a total of 6765 kits were picked-up and 1167 (17%) specimens were returned for screening. Two programs used a combination of above strategies (2395 tests) but the outcomes were not reported separately. The overall median CT positivity was 3.6% (inter-quartile range: 1.7-7.3%).
A variety of strategies have been used in home-based CT/NG screening programs. The screening strategies and their feasibility in the local context need to be carefully considered to maximize the effectiveness of home-based screening programs.
PMCID: PMC3599833  PMID: 23496833
Sexually transmitted infections; Chlamydia trachomatis; Screening; Home
16.  The impact of HIV seroadaptive behaviours on sexually transmissible infections in HIV-negative homosexual men in Sydney, Australia 
Sexually Transmitted Diseases  2012;39(3):191-194.
HIV seroadaptive behaviours such as serosorting and strategic positioning are being increasingly practised by homosexual men, however, their impact on sexually transmissible infections (STIs) is unclear.
Participants were 1,427 initially HIV-negative men enrolled from 2001 to 2004 and followed to June 2007. Participants were tested annually for anal and urethral gonorrhoea and chlamydia, herpes simplex virus, and syphilis. In addition, they reported diagnoses of these conditions, and of genital and anal warts between annual visits, and sexual risk behaviours.
Compared with men who reported no unprotected anal intercourse (UAI), serosorting was associated with an increased risk of urethral (HR=1.97, 95% CI 1.43–2.72) and anal (HR=1.62, 95% CI 1.11–2.36) chlamydia. Compared with men who reported UAI with HIV non-concordant partners, men who practised serosorting had significantly lower risk of incident syphilis (HR=0.21, 95% CI 0.05–0.81) and urethral gonorrhoea (HR=0.61, 95% CI 0.39–0.96). Compared with men who reported no UAI, strategic positioning was associated with an increased risk of urethral gonorrhoea (HR=1.72, 95% CI 1.05–2.83) and chlamydia (HR=2.22, 95% CI 1.55–3.18). Compared with men who reported receptive UAI, the incidence of anal gonorrhoea (HR=0.38, 0.20–0.74) and chlamydia (HR= 0.44, 95% CI 0.27–0.69) was significantly lower in those who practised strategic positioning.
For men who reported seopadaptive behaviours, rates of some bacterial STIs were higher than in men who reported no UAI. However, rates were lower than for men who reported higher HIV risk behaviours.
PMCID: PMC3282017  PMID: 22337105
Cohort study; STI; Homosexuality; male; HIV seroadaptive behaviour; Australia
17.  Penile Implants among Prisoners—A Cause for Concern? 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53065.
We report the prevalence of penile implants among prisoners and determine the independent predictors for having penile implants. Questions on penile implants were included in the Sexual Health and Attitudes of Australian Prisoners (SHAAP) survey following concerns raised by prison health staff that increasing numbers of prisoners reported having penile implants while in prison.
Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) of a random sample of prisoners was carried out in 41 prisons in New South Wales and Queensland (Australia). Men were asked, “Have you ever inserted or implanted an object under the skin of your penis?” If they responded Yes: “Have you ever done so while you were in prison?” Univariate logistic regression and logistic regression were used to determine the factors associated with penile implants.
A total of 2,018 male prisoners were surveyed, aged between 18 and 65 years, and 118 (5.8%) reported that they had inserted or implanted an object under the skin of their penis. Of these men, 87 (73%) had this done while they were in prison. In the multivariate analysis, a younger age, birth in an Asian country, and prior incarceration were all significantly associated with penile implants (p<0.001). Men with penile implants were also more likely to report being paid for sex (p<0.001), to have had body piercings (p<0.001) or tattoos in prison (p<0.001), and to have taken non-prescription drugs while in prison (p<0.05).
Penile implants appear to be fairly common among prisoners and are associated with risky sexual and drug use practices. As most of these penile implants are inserted in prison, these men are at risk of blood borne viruses and wound infection. Harm reduction and infection control strategies need to be developed to address this potential risk.
PMCID: PMC3543437  PMID: 23326383
18.  A longitudinal evaluation of Treponema pallidum PCR testing in early syphilis 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2012;12:353.
Syphilis is a growing public health problem among men who have sex with men (MSM) globally. Rapid and accurate detection of syphilis is vital to ensure patients and their contacts receive timely treatment and reduce ongoing transmission.
We evaluated a PCR assay for the diagnosis of Treponema pallidum using swabs of suspected early syphilis lesions in longitudinally assessed MSM.
We tested 260 MSM for T pallidum by PCR on 288 occasions: 77 (26.7%) had early syphilis that was serologically confirmed at baseline or within six weeks, and 211 (73.3%) remained seronegative for syphilis. Of 55 men with primary syphilis, 49 were PCR positive, giving a sensitivity of 89.1% (95% CI: 77.8%-95.9%) and a specificity of 99.1% (95% CI: 96.5%-99.9%). Of 22 men with secondary syphilis, 11 were PCR positive, giving a sensitivity of 50% (95% CI: 28.2%-71.8%) and a specificity of 100% (95% CI: 66.4%-71.8%). Of the 77 syphilis cases, 43 (56%) were HIV positive and the sensitivity and specificity of the PCR test did not vary by HIV status. The PCR test was able to detect up to five (10%) primary infections that were initially seronegative, including one HIV positive man with delayed seroconversion to syphilis (72 to 140 days) and one HIV positive man who did not seroconvert to syphilis over 14 months follow-up. Both men had been treated for syphilis within a week of the PCR test.
T pallidum PCR is a potentially powerful tool for the early diagnosis of primary syphilis, particularly where a serological response has yet to develop.
PMCID: PMC3541217  PMID: 23241398
Syphilis; PCR; Evaluation
19.  Improving Adherence to Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: A Systematic Review 
Background. Evidence suggests adherence to clinical guidelines for pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) diagnosis and management is suboptimal. We systematically reviewed the literature for studies describing strategies to improve the adherence to PID clinical guidelines. Methods. The databases MEDLINE and EMBASE, and reference lists of review articles were searched from January 2000 to April 2012. Only studies with a control group were included. Results. An interrupted time-series study and two randomised controlled trials (RCTs) were included. The interrupted time-series found that following a multifaceted patient and practitioner intervention (practice protocol, provision of antibiotics on-site, written instructions for patients, and active followup), more patients received the recommended antibiotics and attended for followup. One RCT found a patient video on PID self-care did not improve medication compliance and followup. Another RCT found an abbreviated PID treatment guideline for health-practitioners improved their management of PID in hypothetical case scenarios but not their diagnosis of PID. Conclusion. There is limited research on what strategies can improve practitioner and patient adherence to PID diagnosis and management guidelines. Interventions that make managing PID more convenient, such as summary guidelines and provision of treatment on-site, appear to lead to better adherence but further empirical evidence is necessary.
PMCID: PMC3437626  PMID: 22973085
20.  Tracking type specific prevalence of human Papillomavirus in cervical pre-cancer: a novel sampling strategy 
Surveillance designed to detect changes in the type-specific distribution of HPV in cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 3 (CIN-3) is necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of the Australian vaccination programme on cancer causing HPV types. This paper develops a protocol that eliminates the need to calculate required sample size; sample size is difficult to calculate in advance because HPV’s true type-specific prevalence is imperfectly known.
A truncated sequential sampling plan that collects a variable sample size was designed to detect changes in the type-specific distribution of HPV in CIN-3. Computer simulation to evaluate the accuracy of the plan at classifying the prevalence of an HPV type as low (< 5%), moderate (5-15%), or high (> 15%) and the average sample size collected was conducted and used to assess its appropriateness as a surveillance tool.
The plan classified the proportion of CIN-3 lesions positive for an HPV type very accurately, with >90% of simulations correctly classifying a simulated data-set with known prevalence. Misclassifying an HPV type of high prevalence as being of low prevalence, arguably the most serious kind of potential error, occurred < 0.05 times per 100 simulations. A much lower sample size (21–22 versus 40–48) was required to classify samples of high rather than low or moderate prevalence.
Truncated sequential sampling enables the proportion of CIN-3 due to an HPV type to be accurately classified using small sample sizes. Truncated sequential sampling should be used for type-specific HPV surveillance in the vaccination era.
PMCID: PMC3508807  PMID: 22697428
21.  Chlamydia trachomatis Incidence and Re-Infection among Young Women – Behavioural and Microbiological Characteristics 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37778.
This study aimed to estimate rates of chlamydia incidence and re-infection and to investigate the dynamics of chlamydia organism load in prevalent, incident and re-infections among young Australian women.
1,116 women aged 16 to 25 years were recruited from primary care clinics in Australia. Vaginal swabs were collected at 3 to 6 month intervals for chlamydia testing. Chlamydia organism load was measured by quantitative PCR.
There were 47 incident cases of chlamydia diagnosed and 1,056.34 person years of follow up with a rate of 4.4 per 100 person years (95% CI: 3.3, 5.9). Incident infection was associated with being aged 16 to 20 years [RR = 3.7 (95%CI: 1.9, 7.1)], being employed [RR = 2.4 (95%CI: 1.1, 4.9)] and having two or more new sex partners [RR = 5.5 (95%CI: 2.6, 11.7)]. Recent antibiotic use was associated with a reduced incidence [RR:0.1 (95%CI: 0.0, 0.5)]. There were 14 re-infections with a rate of 22.3 per 100 person years (95%CI: 13.2, 37.6). The median time to re-infection was 4.6 months. Organism load was higher for prevalent than incident infections (p<0.01) and for prevalent than re-infections (p<0.01).
Chlamydia is common among young women and a high proportion of women are re-infected within a short period of time, highlighting the need for effective partner treatment and repeat testing. The difference in organism load between prevalent and incident infections suggests prevalent infection may be more important for ongoing transmission of chlamydia.
PMCID: PMC3360595  PMID: 22662220
22.  Mobile phones are a viable option for surveying young Australian women: a comparison of two telephone survey methods 
Households with fixed-line telephones have decreased while mobile (cell) phone ownership has increased. We therefore sought to examine the feasibility of recruiting young women for a national health survey through random digit dialling mobile phones.
Two samples of women aged 18 to 39 years were surveyed by random digit dialling fixed and mobile numbers. We compared participation rates and responses to a questionnaire between women surveyed by each contact method.
After dialling 5,390 fixed-lines and 3,697 mobile numbers, 140 and 128 women were recruited respectively. Among women contacted and found to be eligible, participation rates were 74% for fixed-lines and 88% for mobiles. Taking into account calls to numbers where eligibility was unknown (e.g. unanswered calls) the estimated response rates were 54% and 45% respectively. Of women contacted by fixed-line, 97% reported having a mobile while 61% of those contacted by mobile reported having a fixed-line at home. After adjusting for age, there were no significant differences between mobile-only and fixed-line responders with respect to education, residence, and various health behaviours; however compared to those with fixed-lines, mobile-only women were more likely to identify as Indigenous (OR 4.99, 95%CI 1.52-16.34) and less likely to live at home with their parents (OR 0.09, 95%CI 0.03-0.29).
Random digit dialling mobile phones to conduct a health survey in young Australian women is feasible, gives a comparable response rate and a more representative sample than dialling fixed-lines only. Telephone surveys of young women should include mobile dialling.
PMCID: PMC3235070  PMID: 22114932
Cellular phone; mobile phone; telephone surveys; survey methods; HPV vaccine
23.  Efficacy of interventions to increase the uptake of chlamydia screening in primary care: a systematic review 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2011;11:211.
As most genital chlamydia infections are asymptomatic, screening is the main way to detect and cases for treatment. We undertook a systematic review of studies assessing the efficacy of interventions for increasing the uptake of chlamydia screening in primary care.
We reviewed studies which compared chlamydia screening in the presence and the absence of an intervention. The primary endpoints were screening rate or total tests.
We identified 16 intervention strategies; 11 were randomised controlled trials and five observational studies, 10 targeted females only, five both males and females, and one males only. Of the 15 interventions among females, six were associated with significant increases in screening rates at the 0.05 level including a multifaceted quality improvement program that involved provision of a urine jar to patients at registration (44% in intervention clinics vs. 16% in the control clinic); linking screening to routine Pap smears (6.9% vs. 4.5%), computer alerts for doctors (12.2% vs. 10.6%); education workshops for clinic staff; internet-based continuing medical education (15.5% vs. 12.4%); and free sexual health consultations (16.8% vs. 13.2%). Of the six interventions targeting males, two found significant increases including the multifaceted quality improvement program in which urine jars were provided to patients at registration (45% vs. 15%); and the offering by doctors of a test to all presenting young male clients, prior to consultation (29 vs. 4%).
Interventions that promoted the universal offer of a chlamydia test in young people had the greatest impact on increasing screening in primary care.
PMCID: PMC3176492  PMID: 21816113
24.  Using population attributable risk to choose HIV prevention strategies in men who have sex with men 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:247.
In Australia, HIV is concentrated in men who have sex with men (MSM) and rates have increased steadily over the past ten years. Health promotion strategies should ideally be informed by an understanding of both the prevalence of the factors being modified, as well as the size of the risk that they confer. We undertook an analysis of the potential population impact and cost saving that would likely result from modifying key HIV risk factors among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Sydney, Australia.
Proportional hazard analyses were used to examine the association between sexual behaviours in the last six months and sexually transmissible infections on HIV incidence in a cohort of 1426 HIV-negative MSM who were recruited primarily from community-based sources between 2001 and 2004 and followed to mid-2007. We then estimated the proportion of HIV infections that would be prevented if specific factors were no longer present in the population, using a population attributable risk (PAR) method which controls for confounding among factors. We also calculated the average lifetime healthcare costs incurred by the HIV infections associated with specific factors by estimating costs associated with clinical care and treatment following infection and discounting at 3% (1% and 5% sensitivity) to present value.
Unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) with a known HIV-positive partner was reported by 5% of men, the hazard ratio (HR) was 16.1 (95%CI:6.4-40.5), the PAR was 34% (95%CI:24-44%) and the average lifetime HIV-related healthcare costs attributable to UAI with HIV-positive partners were $AUD102 million (uncertainty range: $93-114 m). UAI with unknown HIV status partners was reported by 25% of men, the HR was 4.4 (95%CI:1.8-11.2), the PAR was 33% (95%CI:26-42%) and the lifetime incurred costs were $AUD99 million. Anal warts prevalence was 4%, the HR was 5.2 (95%CI:2.4-11.2), the PAR was 13% (95%CI:9-19%) and the lifetime incurred costs were $AUD39 million.
Our analysis has found that although UAI with an HIV-positive sexual partner is a relatively low-prevalence behaviour (reported by 5% of men), if this behaviour was not present in the population, the number of infections would be reduced by one third. No other single behaviour or sexually transmissible infections contributes to a greater proportion of infections and HIV-related healthcare costs.
PMCID: PMC3100254  PMID: 21504574
25.  Maximising retention in a longitudinal study of genital Chlamydia trachomatis among young women in Australia 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:156.
Cohort studies are an important study design however they are difficult to implement, often suffer from poor retention, low participation and bias. The aims of this paper are to describe the methods used to recruit and retain young women in a longitudinal study and to explore factors associated with loss to follow up.
The Chlamydia Incidence and Re-infection Rates Study (CIRIS) was a longitudinal study of Australian women aged 16 to 25 years recruited from primary health care clinics. They were followed up via the post at three-monthly intervals and required to return questionnaires and self collected vaginal swabs for chlamydia testing. The protocol was designed to maximise retention in the study and included using recruiting staff independent of the clinic staff, recruiting in private, regular communication with study staff, making the follow up as straightforward as possible and providing incentives and small gifts to engender good will.
The study recruited 66% of eligible women. Despite the nature of the study (sexual health) and the mobility of the women (35% moved address at least once), 79% of the women completed the final stage of the study after 12 months. Loss to follow up bias was associated with lower education level [adjusted hazard ratio (AHR): 0.7 (95% Confidence Interval (CI): 0.5, 1.0)], recruitment from a sexual health centre as opposed to a general practice clinic [AHR: 1.6 (95% CI: 1.0, 2.7)] and previously testing positive for chlamydia [AHR: 0.8 (95% CI: 0.5, 1.0)]. No other factors such as age, numbers of sexual partners were associated with loss to follow up.
The methods used were considered effective for recruiting and retaining women in the study. Further research is needed to improve participation from less well-educated women.
PMCID: PMC3061916  PMID: 21385471

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