• Open Access

Sex in Australia: Knowledge about sexually transmissible infections and blood-borne viruses in a representative sample of adults


National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, University of New South Wales, 376 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010. Fax: (02) 9332 1837; e-mail: agrulich@nchecr.unsw.edu.au


Objective To describe knowledge related to sexually transmitted infection (STI) and blood-borne virus (BBV) infection in a representative sample of Australian adults.

MethodsComputer-assisted telephone interviews were completed by a representative sample of 10,173 men and 9,134 women aged 16–59 years from all States and Territories. The overall response rate was 73.1% (69.4% among men and 77.6% among women). Respondents were read a series of statements about STIs and BBVs and asked to say if they believed they were true or false. Predictors of knowledge were examined.

Results: Respondents were more likely to answer correctly questions about hepatitis C than questions about herpes, gonorrhoea, genital warts and chlamydia. Women had better knowledge than men. Other predictors of better knowledge included speaking English at home, homosexual or bisexual identity, higher educational levels, higher income, higher occupational level and a previous STI diagnosis.

Conclusion Knowledge of transmission routes and health consequences of the most common STIs was poor. Although knowledge is only one prerequisite for effective disease prevention, the findings suggest that improving public knowledge of STIs is an urgent task in reducing the morbidity associated with these common infections.

Implications: Education campaigns to increase knowledge of the transmission and health consequences of STIs are urgently required if the substantial morbidity associated with these common infections is to be reduced.