Physicians plead with Government to respond to syphilis outbreak

Condoms. Photo credit: Getty

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians is pleading the Government to respond to a syphilis outbreak making its way across New Zealand.

Doctors have written to Associate Minister of Health Julie Anne Genter to ask the Government to set targets for syphilis reduction and provide additional resources to handle the sexually transmitted infection.

They also want the Ministry of Health to implement an electronic surveillance system that correctly notifies the number of infections.

The number of infections from the infection has been increasing since 2013. In 2015, the rate was 4.6 per 100,000 per year, but nearly double in Auckland at 8.7 per 100,000. Around 495 cases were recorded in 2017.

"We are very concerned about the growing number of New Zealanders who are contracting syphilis infections, particularly in Auckland, where there is the highest rate of notified infections in the country - double the nation's average," said Dr Jeff Brown, RACP President (NZ).

"There are now cases of congenital syphilis, where the infection is being passed from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby. Without treatment, there can be serious and sometimes fatal complications for an infected fetus."

According to Dr Brown, DHBs do not have targets for reducing the number of syphilis infections and there is no national policy on requirements for the sexual health sector.

There are also no mandatory service specifications for the provision of sexual health clinics.

Dr Brown says New Zealand does not need to be experiencing a syphilis outbreak in 2018 and something needs to be done.

"Syphilis doesn't belong to a by-gone era, it's here - particularly in vulnerable communities - it's on the increase, and it's entirely treatable and preventable with access to medicine, health services and regular screening."


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