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Genital ulcer disease in central Australia: predictors of testing and outcomes

Janelle E. Wilkey A , Katherine A. Fethers B C F , Ahmed S. Latif D and John M. Kaldor E
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Donovanosis Eradication Project Officer, Department of Health and Community Services, Alice Springs, NT 0871, Australia.

B Sexual Health Physician, Department of Health and Community Services, Alice Springs, NT 0871, Australia.

C Sexual Health and Blood Borne Viruses Unit, Communicable Disease Control, PO Box 271, Alice Springs, NT 0871, Australia.

D Specialist Public Health Medicine, Department of Health and Community Services, Alice Springs, NT 0871, Australia.

E National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, Sydney, NSW 2010, Australia.

F Corresponding author. Email:

Sexual Health 3(2) 119-122
Submitted: 29 September 2005  Accepted: 6 January 2006   Published: 26 May 2006


Objectives: To identify factors associated with the uptake and outcome of testing for infectious causes of genital ulcer disease (GUD) in central Australia. Methods: Prospective investigation of GUD cases in central Australia from February 2002 to August 2003. Data were collected from primary health care clinics in remote indigenous communities of Central Australia. Results: During the study period, 134 cases of GUD were reported and investigated. Of these cases, 71 (53%) were in women (age range 14–75, median 28) and 63 (47%) in men (14–63, median 28). Testing for syphilis was undertaken for 111 (82.8%) cases, 75 (56%) were tested for herpes simplex virus infection, and 82 (61.2%) for donovanosis. Testing for at least one of the three sexually transmissible pathogens of interest was undertaken in 128 (95.5%) cases, while 99 (73.9%) were tested for two pathogens and 41 (30.6%) for all three agents. Of subjects tested, 19.8% had new syphilis infection, 51% had herpes simplex virus infection and 7% had donovanosis. In 19 of 41 (46.3%) subjects fully investigated no cause for genital ulceration was found. Conclusion: This study provides the first quantitative description of GUD diagnosis in central Australia. Logistic constraints limited the systematic application of diagnostic tests. Current treatment protocols may need to be reassessed in light of the higher than expected detection of genital herpes as a cause of GUD.

Additional keywords: aetiology, donovanosis, indigenous, remote.


The National Donovanosis Eradication Project was funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing’ Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (OATSIH) through the National Indigenous Australians’ Sexual Health Strategy. The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Kirsty Smith, Coordinator, Tristate STI/HIV Project, Alice Springs and members of staff of the Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Unit, Alice Springs, NT, Remote Area Practitioners in Central Australia.


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