Aboriginal Health Workers complete sexual health training

Aboriginal Health Workers around the state are being trained to carry out testing for Sexually Transmitted Infections, in a bid to increase testing rates among Aboriginal people.

The Aboriginal Health Council of WA initially ran the pilot program ‘The Birds and BBVs’ in Albany in May last year, and since then, 49 people have participated in the training.

The two-day training course has been held in Broome, Kalgoorlie, Bunbury, Roebourne and Perth.

AHCWA Chairperson Michelle Nelson Cox said rates of STIs and Blood Borne Viruses were far higher among Aboriginal people than the general population.

“Aboriginal people are five times more likely to have chlamydia, 14 times more at risk of gonorrhea, 6 times more likely to contract syphilis and 10 times more at risk of Hepatitis C than non-Aboriginal people,” she said.

“Concerningly, the rates of infections such as syphilis, gonorrhea, Hepatitis C and HIV are increasing among Aboriginal people, particularly in the 15 to 30 year age group.”

Ms Nelson-Cox said the training program, which was developed by AHCWA and Sexual Health Quarters, was designed to be fun and interactive.

“The course is designed to help Aboriginal Health Workers (

AHWs) and others working with Aboriginal people to feel confident to broach the subject of STI testing with their clients,” she said.

“We’re seeking to normalise testing by making it a routine part of a visit to an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service, even when people present at the clinic for an unrelated issue.

“The feedback we’re getting is that if health workers feel confident, and can explain that it’s simply a routine test, clients are generally happy to agree.

“We are hopeful that this training program will contribute to increasing the rate of STI testing among Aboriginal people, and further down the track, help to decrease the number of STIs.”

AHCWA is currently working with Curtin University to evaluate the efficacy of the training program.

This year, courses are planned for Wiluna, Carnarvon, Newman, Derby, Kalgoorlie and Perth.

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