Safe Sex Plea For Teens As Schoolies Kicks Off In NSW
Thousands of young Aussies, fresh out of their final HSC exams, are expected to partake in schoolies celebrations but authorities are concerned about a spike in chlamydia.
Safe sex practices, in particular, are being encouraged by health experts who say a number of sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise in NSW, partially due to targeted testing leading to higher detection of cases.
According to a 2018 data report from the Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategy, instances of gonorrhea and syphilis were significantly higher last year than in 2017.
Additionally, the report found a seven per cent increase in chlamydia with more than 30,000 notifications received in 2018 alone.
Authorities are particularly concerned about chlamydia during the schoolies season because there are often no symptoms, but without proper treatment, the disease can cause serious complications.
NSW Health’s Acting Director Communicable Diseases, Dr Christine Selvey urged teens to use condoms as the best protection against STIs and to get tested if they engage in unprotected sex.
"While Schoolies Week should be a fun time after the stresses of exams, look after yourself and your mates,” Selvey said.
“This is particularly important if you consume alcohol, as being intoxicated can have significant consequences and lead to increased risk-taking like unsafe sex."
NSW Police have issued a similar plea ahead of schoolies celebrations for teens to look after their friends and know their limits when it comes to alcohol consumption.
Officers have vowed to target drug and alcohol-related crime and anti-social behaviour, particularly in schoolies hot-spots including the Tweed and Byron Bay regions.
Detective Chief Inspector Matt Kehoe insisted police are not looking to "ruin the fun" for schoolies revellers and urged partygoers to ask the police for help if they find themselves in danger, feel threatened or are a victim of any crime.
“Finishing high school is a momentous occasion for all school leavers and we want to make sure schoolies celebrations are conducted in a safe environment,” Kehoe said.
“Thousands of people are expected to fill Byron Bay, and people are urged to plan ahead; those not joining in the celebrations are asked to watch out for increased pedestrian activity and keep an eye out on the roads."
The warnings come as Queensland wrap up week one of the school leaver celebrations, on the Gold Coast -- traditionally the most popular schoolies location.
Queensland authorities have praised the 15,000 students that celebrated the end of their schooling in Surfers Paradise, which a 27 percent drop in attendance from last year.
Mark Reaburn, said organisers "anticipated" the drop in the number of schoolies this year.
"Last year 50,000 kid graduated from year 12, this year 35,000," he told reporters on Saturday.
“2007 was the first year of the prep year, so this is the first change in that dynamic.
“The number should increase again back to what we consider to be normal next year.”
With that drop in attendees, there was also a lower number of arrests made by police over the past week.
A total of 42 teenagers were arrested for drug and alcohol-related offences, a reduction of nearly 50 percent from 2018.
Gold Coast Police Acting Chief Superintendent Craig Hanlon said the key point for police is there were no arrests for violent behaviour during the week.
"The schoolies themselves have been exceptional," Hanlon said.
"There have been no acts of violence reported to us by schoolies, there have been people who have made some mistakes but .... they're on the lower end of the scale of offending."
Hanlon said the each year the behaviour of schoolies is getting "better and better" than the previous year groups, but noted the lack of violence could have been due to the smaller number of attendees.
"There was actually more space for people, and you don't invade people's space so therefore there is no issues when you come across people," he said.
Queensland Ambulance Service worked with Queensland health to set up an emergency treatment centre for schoolies.
Over the week, it saw more that 460 patients, with about 10 percent of those transported to hospital.
"Some of these were just for minor injuries, cuts and abrasions... although those numbers are slightly down we think it is reflective that this year's cohort was a little bit smaller," said Justin Payne, QAS senior operations supervisor.