NSLHD News October 15 2021

Clinic 16 keeping busy while NSW gets busy during lockdown As NSW emerges from stay at home restrictions, Northern Sydney Local Health District’s sexual health service might be operating a little differently, but they know one thing for sure.

“People are still having sex,” Director of sexual health for NSLHD Dr Catriona Ooi said. “Sex while social distancing is hard to achieve, initially there was some COVID-19 ‘safer’ sex advice promoted by some, but these have been largely ignored. “While we initially saw a decline in people’s sexual activity, this did not last long.” Treeny said while the initial impact of restrictions slowed patient presentations, human nature eventually prevailed. “After a short while the demand for services increased, and it was evident that people were getting together again. The state data shows that sexually transmitted infection (STI) notifications have dropped during the pandemic but it’s not clear if this is because less people are getting tested. People are still having sex and people are still getting STIs.” Like most other departments, the sexual health service started to explore the online world – switching to an integrated telehealth and face-to-face model of care,

(Left to right): Dr Catriona Ooi, Nurse Susie and Allied Health Manager Dash

depending upon patient need. This included external pathology and specimen collection, community pharmacy direct scripts (via email and fax) and medication home delivery. Sexual Health Nurse Susie said the clinic actually started to see new clients due to the unique situations created by the pandemic. “We have new clients with chronic health needs ‘stuck here’ due to travel restrictions, unable to return to their country of origin,” she said. “(They have) no access to their medication/s or usual care, compounded by no Medicare or Centrelink entitlements. The sexual health service has ensured their care and medications are uninterrupted through partnerships in primary care and other key stakeholders.” Allied Health Manager Dash said while there has always been a slight stigma for those seeking sexual health

treatment, and the pandemic only served to exacerbate this for some. “Some patients who have perhaps sought or engaged in casual sex beyond the COVID-19 public health restrictions may feel an extra layer of stigma or concern about disclosing this,” she said. “We offer the same non- judgemental and confidential service to all patients – maintaining a focus on sexual health, safety and well-being. “We have re-enforced the need for vaccination and public health measures at the same time as understanding the unique circumstances that people are experiencing and the ways in which individuals and communities cope with stress.” As people start to spread the love post lockdown, Treeny and her team encouraged people to ensure they did so with their sexual health in mind.

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