In this issue:


Sex and Consequences: A New Zealand Update 

Canterbury District Health Board is hosting another ‘Sex and Consequences: A New Zealand Update’ sexual health seminar in May. This can be attended either in person, or via Zoom, as below.

Wednesday, 12 May 2021, 1pm – 5pm
Venue: Rooms 2.3 A and B, Burwood Hospital, Christchurch & Zoom option also available

This seminar will be addressing the following:

  • Urethritis and update of syphilis statistics (Dr Edward Coughlan)
  • Vaginal discharge (Dr Jane Kennedy)
  • Youth and sex – what’s the problem? (Dr Sue Bagshaw)
  • Qtopia (Alice Anderson & Jennifer Shields)

Please RSVP by Friday 30 April advising if attending in person or via Zoom to: Diane Shannon by email: [email protected] or phone: (03) 378 6755

Diary dates: Two further sexual health seminars will be held this year on 11 August and 10 November (1pm – 4.30pm). 

View the flyer here >

Zoom meeting link here >

Heartbreak, hopes and Herpes: What it’s actually like to have an STI

Stuff recently featured a story written by a kiwi woman, Sarah, who shares her experience of what it is like to be diagnosed with an STI - in this case herpes. It serves as a good reminder of the myth-busting required to help reduce the stigma, and the important role that health professionals have in facilitating this. In Sarah’s words, “it’s the psycho-social impact that is most punishing."

Read more here >

Herpes Helpline Q & A

The Herpes Helpline regularly receives enquiries from people struggling with the shock, shame and confusion resulting from a new genital herpes diagnosis. This is an opportunity for the Helpline nurse counsellors to educate people that herpes simplex (either facial or genital) is, in most situations, a medically insignificant infection. It is simply a skin condition (more commonly known as cold sores) that many of us have and if it is problematic there is effective treatment available. In the vast majority of cases it causes far greater psychological morbidity than physical symptoms. The most important part of medical management is to ensure the patient has access to accurate up to date information that can address their fears and provide them with tools to aid their understanding and to help them move on.

What would you recommend to help outbreaks heal up faster? 

Oral antiviral tablets (Valacyclovir or Acyclovir) are a safe and effective treatment for problematic herpes symptoms. They can be taken daily to reduce or prevent recurrences altogether or episodically if recurrences are fewer but last for longer than a week. If your recurrences are more problematic than less then discuss with your doctor what management would best suit you. They should always be given in a first ever outbreak of herpes as this episode can be more severe and last longer than recurrences which are almost always milder. Many people never get a recurrence after their first episode and most recurrences seem to get less and less over years. The Herpes Helpline 0508 11 12 13 can provide help and advice regarding your treatment options. 

Some other ways that MAY help reduce outbreaks:
  • Reducing or avoiding foods high in the amino acid Arginine (such as chocolate, nuts etc.).
  • Reducing caffeine by drinking less coffee, wine. Stop smoking (if you do).
  • Maintaining a generally healthy lifestyle.
  • Exercise, get enough sleep, limit consumption of sugar.
  • Using lubricant with sexual contact to reduce damage to the vulval skin that occurs with friction.
  • Some people have reported that taking Lysine tablets daily has helped reduce their recurrences. There is no medical evidence to support this. 
While you are having the outbreak I would suggest:
  • Salt baths, used to wash the genital area, can clean, soothe and dry the sores. Use 1 teaspoon of salt in 600ml of water or a handful in a shallow bath. Avoid soap/body wash on the genitals as this can be an irritant. Generally (even when not having an active outbreak) using just water and your hands to clean your genitals is ample.
  • Pain relievers include simple analgesics (such as aspirin and paracetamol), ice (which can be soothing if applied directly to the sores) and creams with an anaesthetic component. Creams, however, can slow down drying and should therefore be used sparingly and only for pain relief. 
  • Loose underclothes, preferably cotton (not nylon), can help minimise discomfort and allow healing.


HPV vaccine in the media

HPV vaccine uptake languishing below target amid rising cancer rates

Hannah Martin 16:37, Apr 23 2021

Uptake of the HPV vaccine is “absolutely not” where it needs to be, with immunisation rates lagging well behind the national target.

HPV (human papillomavirus) is one of the most widespread sexually transmitted infections and is associated with almost all cervical cancers.

It is very common – an "almost inevitable consequence" of being a sexually active adult – with a four in five chance (80 per cent) of becoming infected in your lifetime.

But uptake of a vaccine which protects against infection and can prevent cancers languishes behind the national target – a “poor cousin” which doesn't get the attention it needs, an expert says.


Sexual health experts concerned by drop in number of young people getting HPV vaccine

Vandhna Bhan
1 NEWS Apr 23 2021 

Sexual health experts are concerned by a drop in the number of young people vaccinated last year against HPV, a virus that can cause a raft of cancers including most types of cervical cancers.


Concerned over drop in numbers of young people getting HPV vaccines

Nicole Bremner
1 NEWS Apr 22 2021 (video content)

Vaccines for HPV are offered to intermediate school age children but some GPs say there could be factors beyond Covid for reduced numbers receiving the jab.

Watch the video...

MP's cervical cancer diagnosis a wake-up call

Siouxsie Wiles 05:00, Apr 12 2021

OPINION: I was very sad to hear the news that cabinet minister and East Coast MP Kiri Allan​ has been diagnosed with stage three cervical cancer. If you don’t know where the cervix is, it’s the small passageway connecting the vagina and the uterus.

As Minister for Emergency Management, she calmly dealt with the aftermath of the recent earthquakes off the East Cape and the Kermadec Islands. That same day she’d also had an ultrasound and biopsy after experiencing months of back, stomach, and leg pain and a period that was lasting weeks rather than days. Those are all potential signs of cervical cancer.

The most important risk factor for cervical cancer is persistent infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV).​ HPV spreads through sexual intercourse and skin-to-skin contact. That also includes hand to genital contact, oral sex, and to babies during childbirth.


Vaccine Passport – Have You Got Your Cancer-prevention Stamp?

Joint press release - STIEF & HNCFA
Scoop 09:52. Mar 3 2021

As our collective consciousness is focussed on coronavirus and the new COVID vaccines, it seems timely to remind New Zealanders about another effective virus-fighting vaccine that we should be thinking about too: Gardasil. This highly effective, safe vaccine fights the Human Papillomavirus, known as HPV, and massively reduces the risk of developing genital warts, as well as multiple different forms of cancer.

The 4th of March marks International HPV Awareness Day. HPV is one of the world’s most widespread viral infections, usually resulting from direct skin-to-skin contact during intimate sexual contact with someone who has HPV. The virus can be transmitted by penetrative as well as non-penetrative sexual contact and is thought to be the most common sexually transmitted infection in the world. The Head and Neck Cancer Foundation Aotearoa (HNCFA) and the Sexually Transmitted Infections Education Foundation (STIEF) want to take this opportunity to remind New Zealanders about the devastating health impacts that can result from HPV infection, and to encourage those that haven’t already had their Gardasil vaccine, to book in now!