Testing commercial sex workers for sexually transmitted infections in Victoria, Australia: an evaluation of the impact of reducing the frequency of testing

PLoS One. 2014 Jul 21;9(7):e103081. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103081. eCollection 2014.


Background: The frequency of testing sex workers for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Victoria, Australia, was changed from monthly to quarterly on 6 October 2012. Our aim was to determine the impact of this change to the clients seen at the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre (MHSC).

Methods: Computerised medical records of all clients attending at MHSC from 7 October 2011 to 7 October 2013 were analysed.

Results: Comparing between the monthly and quarterly testing periods, the number of consultations at MSHC with female sex workers (FSW) halved from 6146 to 3453 (p<0.001) and the consultation time spent on FSW reduced by 40.6% (1942 h to 1153 h). More heterosexual men (p<0.001), and women (p<0.001) were seen in the quarterly testing period. The number of STIs diagnosed in the clinic increased from 2243 to 2589 from the monthly to quarterly period, respectively [15.4% increase (p<0.001)]. Up to AU$247,000 was saved on FSW testing after the shift to quarterly testing.

Conclusions: The change to STIs screening frequency for sex workers from monthly to quarterly resulted in a 15% increase in STI diagnoses in the clinic and approximate a quarter of a million dollars was diverted from FSW testing to other clients. Overall the change in frequency is likely to have had a beneficial effect on STI control in Victoria.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / economics
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Work*
  • Sex Workers*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / economics
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Time Factors
  • Victoria
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

Funding for this study was provided by an NHMRC program grant (568971). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.