The Ministry of Health is today launching a new notification system to better record surveillance of sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis.
Unfortunately, in recent years New Zealand has seen a rise in the number of syphilis cases, in a similar trend first seen in the United Kingdom, Australia and America.
Last year there were 470 cases of syphilis reported locally.
The Ministry is committed to seeing these numbers reversed and recently convened a working group with representatives from the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, Body Positive, district health boards, public health units and sexual health services.
This working group was established to identify the way forward in addressing the increasing syphilis rates in New Zealand – including promoting greater condom use.
The key actions identified include:
- improved epidemiological data
- increased awareness of syphilis amongst both health professionals (including midwives) and the public (for both men who have sex with men (MSM) and the heterosexual population)
- improved training and information provided to health professionals – particularly in relation to the diagnosis and management of syphilis.
Today’s rollout of an automated notification system is one way to improve the available data.
The new notification system will be for all Section C diseases, which are notified without identifiable patient data (AIDS, HIV infection, syphilis and gonorrhoea).
Section C disease became notifiable in January 2017 under changes to the Health (Protection) Amendment Act.
The Ministry’s Director of Public Health, Dr Caroline McElnay says STI data is currently collected but relies on sentinel surveillance from sexual health and family planning clinics for syphilis.
‘The new surveillance system will facilitate notification by Healthcare Practitioners and laboratories to Medical Officers of Health and ESR.’
‘This new notification system will give us ready access to high quality surveillance data and allow for a better understanding of at-risk populations, planning and evaluation of prevention and control activities and ongoing monitoring of the number of cases of syphilis in New Zealand.’
‘I’m really encouraged by this new notification system and I’m confident it’ll improve surveillance, give us a better understanding of STI infections generally and ultimately help to see a decline in rates – because at the end of the day, that’s what we all want,’ says Dr McElnay.
This is an interim solution towards a fully automated system. The final fully automated solution is set to be implemented in July 2019.