A NEW campaign has been launched to target the rising rates of HIV and other STIs in the Northern Territory, leading to the territory having the highest STI rates in the country.

The campaign was developed by the Northern Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Council (NTAHC) and the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) and stars Aboriginal model and youth practitioner Casey Conway.

A syphilis outbreak in the NT has seen over 300 cases in the territory alone.

Executive Director of NTAHC, Kim Gates, said the increased rates of STI and HIV infections highlight a serious issue about equal access to health and education in the NT.

“Aboriginal people, particularly those living in remote communities, often have little or no understanding of the importance of maintaining their sexual health,” she said.

“Health clinics are under resourced and over-burdened by conflicting and competing health needs, which often results in sexual health taking a back seat.

“The school health curriculum doesn’t include education around STIs and blood-borne viruses and the only reference to using condoms is to prevent pregnancy.”

The campaign was adapted from VAC’s award-winning ‘drama downunder’ campaign, and it aims to remove the stigma from sexual health.

Openly gay Conway appears in his underwear in the campaign with the message: “Wet or dry – any season, sexy health is deadly! Get tested, get treated, no drama!”

He said the campaign is important for Aboriginal communities in the NT.

“We have to do something about STIs in the Northern Territory, and among Aboriginal people in particular,” he said.

“I really hope the campaign will get people testing every three to six months – once in the wet and once in the dry.”

Chief Executive of VAC Simon Ruth recalled an earlier conversation he had had with Gates about the creating the campaign.

“When I first talked to NTAHC about bringing a seasonal testing campaign to the Northern Territory, Kim reminded me they don’t have four seasons up north – it’s just wet and dry,” he said.

“There’s a good lesson here in the ways health promotion campaigns developed by large HIV organisations down south don’t always take into account the specific needs of communities in the top end.”

Confidential testing and treatment is available from Clinic 34, your GP, your Aboriginal Medical Service, or community health clinic.

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