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UQ collaborates with HERO to tackle sexually transmitted infections in Indigenous communities

Joseph Guenzler -

Researchers from the University of Queensland have collaborated with Indigenous youth to produce a collection of videos aimed at tackling stigma and dispelling misconceptions surrounding sexually transmitted diseases.

Pitjantjatjara and Nukunu man, Director of UQ's Poche Centre for Indigenous Health Professor James Ward highlighted that Indigenous youth face markedly elevated levels of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and blood-borne viruses (BBVs) in contrast to their non-Indigenous counterparts.

"Over the past 10 years STI and BBV cases have risen substantially in Indigenous communities in Australia, but testing rates have decreased," Professor Ward said.

"Between 2020 and 2022 Indigenous people aged between 15 and 24 had the highest notification rates for chlamydia and gonorrhoea.

"Our aim is to raise awareness so people can make informed choices about their sexual health."

Professor Ward heads the UQ initiative Young Deadly Free (YDF), aiming to boost testing and treatment rates for STIs and BBVs among Indigenous youth.

"We partnered with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to create the YDF videos addressing themes of gender, sexuality, young men getting tested, pornography, stigma, shame and consent – and reinforcing that STIs can affect everyone," he said.

UQ's Poche Centre for Indigenous Health has teamed up with HERO to expand condom access in Indigenous communities.

"We promote condom use to prevent STIs, HIV, unplanned pregnancies and BBVs and improve health equity in the communities where our teams are working," Professor Ward said.

"We know our peoples' health will only improve when our mob leads the way.

"This means ensuring communities drive the research agenda, making sure that we're supporting our people to become the future leaders in health research, done by us, for us, with us."

HERO chief executive David Wommelsdorff said the collaboration with UQ aligns with a mutual goal of promoting safe and accessible sexual and reproductive healthcare, with a specific aim to encourage condom use in rural and regional Australian communities.

"This partnership is really exciting for HERO because we believe in the transformational potential of our one-for-one donation initiative, to create a more fair and equal society, through sexual and reproductive healthcare," Mr Wommelsdorff said.

"HERO will kick this partnership off with a donation of 11,600 condoms, with the goal to donate 30,000 condoms this year alone, which adds to the 2.36 million condoms donated globally to date."

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