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Information for health professionals about the SA Syphilis Register for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander South Australians
A multi-jurisdictional syphilis outbreak in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities was first identified in January 2011, in northwest Queensland, followed by the Northern Territory in July 2013, and the Kimberley region of Western Australia in June 2014. SA Health declared an outbreak in March 2017, which extended to Adelaide in November 2018.
Separately, there is also a national syphilis outbreak amongst men who have sex with men.
A national outbreak response team, led by the Commonwealth Government, has developed a range of responses to the outbreak in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The South Australian Syphilis Outbreak Working Group was formed in May 2017, with representation from government, non-government, research, and the Aboriginal health sectors and has developed a comprehensive response strategy encompassing a number of action areas.
The SA Syphilis Register (the Register) is one important element of the response and is modelled on successful Registers in other jurisdictions operating for many years, prior to the national outbreak.
Telephone: 1300 232 272
The Register is a secure, confidential, single statewide database which includes all laboratory-positive syphilis cases diagnosed in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander South Australians which meet the syphilis national case definition. The initial information is obtained from the Department for Health and Wellbeing’s (the Department) Communicable Disease Control Branch (CDCB) notification system, which collects data under provisions within the South Australian Public Health Act 2011 (the Act). Syphilis data relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cases is then securely transferred to the Register.
The Register aims to improve the management of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by syphilis by:
Under the Act, medical practitioners and pathology services must inform the Department of cases suspected of having, or diagnosed with, any notifiable condition, including syphilis.
The Act absolves the reporting medical practitioner and pathology service from any legal liability concerning consent to release the required information. However, it is wise to inform the patient (or their care giver) that a report must be provided and that the Department (in this case Register staff) may be in contact with the patient in relation to partner notification. Disease notification and partner notification are confidential processes. The Act requires the Department to protect the confidentiality of this information and prevents the release of identified data to any person not involved in data collection, investigation, public health action or treatment and care of that person.
Access is strictly limited to staff within CDCB, including SA Syphilis Register staff, specialist doctors and staff within the Disease Surveillance and Investigation Section, who receive initial notifications and transfer data to the Register.
Health providers external to CDCB who are involved in the direct care of patients may then contact Register staff to seek information from the Register; however, these health providers will not have direct viewing access to the Register.
Health providers, who are involved in the direct care of patients on the Register, include:
If a patient moves or travels between jurisdictions, their information may be shared between states for continuity of care.