Sex Transm Infect 92:88-89 doi:10.1136/sextrans-2015-052412
  • Editorial

Addressing structural challenges for the sexual health and well-being of Indigenous women in Australia

Open Access
  1. Kerry Arabena
  1. Correspondence to Professor Kerry Arabena, Centre for Health Equity, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne VIC 3053, Australia; kerry.arabena{at}
  • Received 20 November 2015
  • Accepted 28 November 2015

According to the most recent national data in Australia, chlamydia and gonorrhoea were 3 and 18 times more likely to be diagnosed in Aboriginal populations, respectively, compared with the non-Indigenous population, with 16–19 years old Indigenous Australians carrying the greatest burden of these infections.1 Reports confirm that almost half this age group living in remote communities has one or more of gonorrhoea, chlamydia and trichomonas infections.2 In addition, significant increases in the prevalence of chronic hepatitis B and higher rates of hepatitis C acquired through burgeoning injecting drug use, combined with high rates of chronic disease, means there is a significant burden of disease among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that costs individuals, communities and health systems dearly.3

Current Australian efforts in this area focus on prevention, early detection and treatment, monitoring and provision of care for people living with disease. These efforts, however, are not collectively addressing the complex array of needs of those many Indigenous women and children experiencing vulnerability. An increasing number of Indigenous women in Australia and globally are now demanding that politicians, policy makers, practitioners, researchers and educators coordinate their efforts to identify and address barriers to effective sexual and reproductive health services, and also to change the marginalised position of Indigenous peoples in their respective countries.

Indigenous women and their children need health equity and societal equality. This can be achieved by redressing structural and systemic barriers to quality services, and working together to realise human rights for all Australians.

This year my friend, whose 17-year-old sister went missing 22 years ago, attended a Canadian conference on the over-representation …