The VIPee Tent at Splendour

A chlamydia testing program at the recent Splendour in the Grass festival near Byron Bay met with a positive response from patrons, with more than 1000 young people attending the NSW Health ‘VIP zone’ to contribute urine samples.

The zone provided participants with a clean toilet, phone charging and the opportunity to freshen up their make-up, according to Marty Janssen from the NSW STI Programs Unit. He said the ‘Down to Test’ team collaborated with the Positive Adolescent Sexual Health (PASH) Consortium and the North Coast HIV and Related Programs (HARP) to enhance the range of sexual health promotion services available to festivalgoers.

“Young people with a negative result were contacted by SMS, while those with a positive result were contacted by a sexual health nurse from NSW Sexual Health Info-Link to inform them of diagnosis, and arrange treatment.

“We have been able to contact over 90% of those with a positive result at the initial four festivals,” Mr Janssen added.

Results from the earlier festivals showed a chlamydia positivity rate of between 3-5 per cent.

“The program’s aim is to increase STI testing in young people by improving positive attitudes and social norms for STI testing among higher risk young people,” Mr Janssen said.

“So far the program’s evaluation has shown over 25% improvement in positive attitudes and social norms for STI testing, as well as 30% increase in young people’s intention to test in the next 12 months.”

Young people aged 15-29 have the highest rates of chlamydia, with notification numbers continuing to rise. There were 28,000 chlamydia notifications among people living in NSW in 2017.

“Many people who are infected with the bacteria do not have symptoms but can still transmit it,’ Marty Janssen added.

“Chlamydia can affect the urethra, cervix, rectum, anus, throat, and eyes. If left untreated, it can cause long-term damage, including infertility. The good news is that chlamydia is easily cured by a single dose of antibiotics. It is important to see your doctor or sexual health clinic to get tested and treated.

Franklin John-Leader, Manager, North Coast HARP Health Promotion and Prevention Programs said, “Music festivals are a great opportunity to reach people aged between 15 and 29 to improve awareness of safe sex behaviours and to help normalise STI testing and the process was simple and easy.”

"It's easy as peeing in a jar. People think it's so complicated and cumbersome. But it’s simple and we want to normalise testing"

“The best way to prevent Chlamydia is the correct and consistent use of condom when having sex. Always use condoms with new or casual partners. If you are treated for chlamydia but your sexual partner is not, you could be re-infected”, he said.

Previous research at a Northern Rivers music festival showed an alarmingly low rate of proper condom usage, with many people not using them at all, and a high number reporting malfunctions such as breakage or slippage.