ATLAS

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sexual Health Surveillance Network

The cornerstone of CRE-ASH is the establishment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sexual Health Surveillance Network (ATLAS), a national sentinel surveillance network designed to track and interpret patterns of STI and blood-borne virus testing and treatment, monitor trends, evaluate interventions and inform policy development. The network will also provide complementary behavioural data.

Why do we need ATLAS?

Despite decades of public health intervention, STIs and blood borne viruses (BBVs) continue to occur at much higher rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations than in non-Indigenous populations, with long-term consequences associated with delayed diagnosis and treatment:

  • Common STIs in Aboriginal communities include chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomonas and syphilis. These STIs are easily detected and easily treated. However, if they remain untreated, may lead to reproductive health consequences such as infertility and ectopic pregnancy, as well as pre-term labour, miscarriage and stillborn babies.
  • Continued endemic and high rates of hepatitis B and C represent a significant component of the overall burden of chronic ill-health borne by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, with significant issues for future health care given the long-term effects of chronic liver disease, including liver cancer.
  • Rising HIV rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been observed in data analyses over the last few years. The rate of HIV diagnosis among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is now more than double the Australian-born non-Indigenous rate.

There are significant gaps in the reporting data that are currently available. In order to work towards reducing the burden of STIs and blood-borne viruses in Aboriginal populations, we need a better understanding of local epidemics, patterns of infection, clinical attendance, testing and incidence rates, access to health services, health workforce capacity, health knowledge and risk behaviours.

Our objectives:

  • To establish and maintain a community-based, multi-jurisdictional sentinel surveillance network to enable the collection of comprehensive STI and blood-borne virus clinical and laboratory data in Aboriginal people aged 15 to 54 years.
  • To establish and maintain a national periodic survey to enable the collection of sexual health knowledge, risk behaviours and access to health services data from Aboriginal people aged 15 to 29.

Our Methods:

Up to 50 urban, regional and remote Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and government health services from five geographically dispersed clinical hubs will contribute non-identifiable, routinely collected clinical and laboratory STI and blood-borne virus data from service attendees aged 15 to 54 years, and anonymous behavioural data from participants aged 15 to 29 years.

Outcomes:

A descriptive analysis of key indicators over time, stratified by sex, age and geographical location, will be conducted. Aggregated site-specific monitoring and evaluation data will be reported back to participating sites at regular intervals for quality improvement and capacity building purposes. Aggregated monitoring and evaluation data at the state and national level will be used to inform policy and strategy development.

CRE-ASH Research Policy [PDF: 1038KB]