A western suburbs nurse wants young people to have better access to health services to help stem rising rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) across the region.
HealthWest figures show STIs are on the rise in Hobsons Bay (392 cases per 100,000 people), while Maribyrnong recorded the highest rate in the western region, (551 per 100,000 people). The Victorian average was 438 per 100,000.
Melton had the highest rate of teenage pregnancy, followed by Maribyrnong, Wyndham, Hobsons Bay and Brimbank.
Research by Women’s Health West found sexually active young people in Hobsons Bay and Maribyrnong were the least likely to use condoms, compared to counterparts across Melbourne’s west.
Sam Read, a nurse specialising in sexual health in young people, said rates of STIs and blood-borne viruses were higher in the west than the Victorian average.
“The same applies for teenage pregnancy,” she said.
“And [figures do] not include pregnancies that ended in a termination.”
Ms Read said some of the people seeking treatment were in care.
“We’ve seen people, for instance, in relation to sexual assault, very, very young teenagers pregnant; they’re really not sure what to do and don’t have the support of a parent or a guardian.
“A lot of young people are very uninformed about methods of contraception. I’ve found that, in this area more than anywhere I’ve worked, there are a lot of myths about things, like the [contraceptive] implant.
“I think the figures show only 50 per cent of young people would think about condoms.”
Ms Read said if a young person had a negative experience with a general practitioner who wasn’t “youth friendly”, they may never return.
Ms Read has worked with adolescents at Laverton’s Link Centre and currently practices at Hampstead Drive Medical Centre at Hoppers Crossing, which has a dedicated youth clinic.
“The work we’ve been doing outside of clinic hours is primarily to empower young people to gain access to this health care,” she said.