Shock stats on STDs and teen pregnancy

By Gav Ross

CONDOM vending machines have recently been installed in public toilets around Bass Coast in a bid to curb the high rate of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in this region.
A new Municipal Health and Wellbeing Plan, adopted by councillors at a Bass Coast Shire Council meeting earlier this month, revealed the birth rate for teens aged 15 to 19 is 2.5 times higher than the state average.
The stats for STDs are similarly worrying, with the rate of infections in 12 to 17 year olds sitting at 2.7 times higher than the state average.
Bass Coast is the first region to jump aboard the condom vending machine initiative – a project spearheaded by Gippsland Women’s Health Service.
A council spokesperson said the aim of the program is to provide access to affordable condoms throughout the shire, with funding provided by the Department of Health and Human Services.
“The funding will pay for the machines and an initial 1000 condoms for each machine,” the spokesperson said.
Up until now, there was only one condom vending machine in the area – located in the men’s toilet on Watt Street, Wonthaggi, next to the court house.
This was installed in 2001 following a recommendation made by youngsters at a council youth forum.
Whilst this machine might have dispensed its fair share of rubbers over the years, it’s currently out of order after too many coins have been jammed into it.
The new machines, which are hopefully in working order, are located at:
• Cowes, The Esplanade
• Inverloch, at the skate park
• Cape Woolamai, outside shops
• Grantville, Transaction Centre
• Coronet Bay, men’s toilet at foreshore
Gippsland Women’s Health CEO Jodie Martin said she was impressed Bass Coast was the first municipality to sign up to the vending machine program.
She also noted that it’s not just Bass Coast with higher teenage pregnancy and STD rates – data shows that Gippsland as a whole is roughly double the Victorian average, with “some pockets worse than others”.
“One of the things we’ve attributed this to is a lack of youth specific services,” she said.
“And this isn’t just about sexual health – we’ve been pushing for more youth-friendly doctors and clinics for any health issues.”
Ms Martin said chlamydia remains the most common STD, especially in young people up to the age of 25.
“The difficulty with chlamydia is that there aren’t a lot of symptoms, so a person could have it for quite a long time without even knowing.
“And then there is the added concern that, for girls, if it goes undiagnosed for a period of time, it can impact on fertility in the long term.”