Sexual healing for remote Aboriginal communities
Bega Garnbirringu Health Service worker Henry Dalgetty tests a sample with the new STI machine. Picture: Paul Braven

Bega Garnbirringu Health Service is part of an innovative national trial to reduce high rates of chlamydia and gonorrhoea in remote Aboriginal communities.

For the past year, Bega has been one of 12 primary healthcare services around Australia taking part in the TTANGO Trial.

The trial uses the Xpert test to diagnose sexually transmitted infections within 90 minutes, which can then be treated on the day.

The study is an initiative to address a problem area for public health, with rates of STIs in the Goldfields Aboriginal population among the highest in the State.

For Aboriginal people in WA in 2009-10, the rate of chlamydia notifications was more than six times greater and the rate of gonorrhoea notifications was more than 53 times greater than in the non-Aboriginal population.

Bega clinical services manager Beth Waters said although the study was not yet concluded, the machine had already had a noticeable improvement on health services at the clinic.

"Before (the Xpert test), you would get people in, do either a urine sample or a blood sample, and it would be sent away to pathology and it would be days later that you would get the result back," she said.

"Then you would have to try and find that client if it was positive.

"A lot the time they may have left Kalgoorlie already, so then you've got to search for them over the Goldfields to find them and treat them.

"And it's not only them you've got to find - you've got to find anyone they've had contact with sexually, so you can treat them as well."

Ms Waters said the machine had given the clinic the ability to treat those who tested positive on the day. "With this machine, you give them a cup of tea and a sandwich while they wait for results," she said.

"If they are positive, we treat them and then we do the interview to do the contact tracing to find out who else we need to chase up to treat them.

"So it's huge benefits to the community."

Bega sexual health worker Henry Dalgetty said it was often difficult to treat people for sexual health matters.

"It is very hard, because you've got that shame factor around sexual health," he said.

The study will randomly assign the machine to six of the 12 trial sites who will then switch after 12 months.

Data collected will be used to determine the impact of the machine on STI rates.

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