Health Minister David Davis has backed down from a plan for Victorian sex workers to have fewer tests for sexually transmitted infections, prompting sharp criticism from public health experts who say the plan should go ahead.
Last week, a Department of Health project officer told a health and sex work conference the government had approved a move from monthly to three-monthly tests for sex workers in the regulated industry from September. Victorian Health Minister David Davis.
Credit: Michael Clayton-Jones. Legal sex workers applauded the move, saying monthly testing was unnecessary as they always used protection. But a spokeswoman for Mr Davis said that although he had received a proposal for three-monthly testing, he would not approve it.
Health and human rights experts said it was ridiculous to force sex workers to have monthly tests when they were at extremely low risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections. Three Australian studies have found that about one in every six men admit to having paid for sex at least once.
Professor of Sexual Health at Melbourne University, Christopher Fairley, said research showed monthly testing was unnecessary and a waste of public health resources because sex workers have much lower rates of STIs than other people. This was backed by a recent study of patients at the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre which showed that of female sex workers tested for STIs over three years, only 3 per cent were positive.
In contrast, the study found that 41 per cent of STIs diagnosed at the clinic over the three years were in men having sex with men. Professor Fairley said the monthly testing of legal sex workers also meant doctors were turning away thousands of patients seeking STI tests each year because they were tied up with low risk sex workers.
He said about people could not be tested at the centre in the first quarter of this year because it was tied up with monthly sex worker tests. If the government approved three-monthly tests, he said the centre could see another patients a year who are likely to be at much higher risk of STIs.
Director of the Michael Kirby Centre for Public Health and Human Rights, Bebe Loff, said she was astonished the Victorian Government was insisting on monthly tests, given the principles of informed consent in medicine and human rights to privacy and bodily integrity. It provides a supportive environment where patients can freely discuss their concerns," Associate Professor Loff said.
The founder of the Australian Prostitutes Collective, Cheryl Overs, said monthly testing was a waste of resources and could lead to more demands for unprotected sex because consumers pd all sex workers were "clean". She said that having frequent sex did not mean sex workers wanted to offer their bodies up to doctors more often than was necessary.
Monthly sex worker tests are ridiculous, health experts say.
Please try again later. The Age. By Julia Medew May 31, — Save Log inregister or subscribe to save articles for later. Normal text size Larger text size Very large text size.