The Western Australian Aboriginal Health Ethics Committee has approved this project (HREC1187).


Dr Daniel Vujcich (Curtin University)


Dr Roanna Lobo (Curtin University), Dr Jacqueline Hendriks (Curtin University), Dr Gemma Crawford (Curtin University) Ms Meagan Roberts (Curtin University), Ms Katiska Davis (Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia).


Syphilis is a sexually transmissible infection caused by a type of bacteria. It is highly infectious, yet treatable when identified in its early stages. There is currently an outbreak of syphilis in Australia, with infectious syphilis reaching a ten-year high in 2020, and non-infectious syphilis increasing by 49% compared to the previous five-year average (WA Health 2022). Epidemiological data from 2022 suggest rates of infectious syphilis have increased by 65% from April 2021 to March 2022, compared to the historical five-year average (WA Health 2022). Notifications remain alarmingly high amongst Aboriginal people. The most recent epidemiological data indicates notifications of infectious syphilis amongst Aboriginal people are almost 17 times the rate of non-Aboriginal people (317.5 vs. 19.2/100,000 population). Hence, Aboriginal people are a priority population in Australia’s response to the syphilis outbreak.


The aim of this project is to evaluate a targeted syphilis response led by South West Aboriginal Medial Service (SWAMS). This campaign has been undertaken due to the increased notification rates of syphilis amongst Aboriginal people in the South West region of WA. The research findings will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the campaign, and guide future campaigns and sexual health promotion and engagement activities within the region.


The project objectives in the South West region are to:

  • Develop an effective and culturally appropriate syphilis awareness campaign
  • Implement the syphilis awareness campaign
  • Increase screening and testing rates for Aboriginal people
  • Raise awareness of syphilis, as well as other STIs and BBVs across all age ranges
  • Provide training to Aboriginal health professionals on STIs and BBVs
  • Reduce stigma associated with STIs and BBVs testing/screening, increasing confidence to have conversations
  • Increase knowledge and awareness of congenital syphilis


The evaluation of the SWAMS targeted syphilis response aims to identify:

  • Community and stakeholder perceptions of the campaign outcomes
  • Engagement and reach of the digital campaign.
  • Exposure to the campaign and recall of key messages.
  • The number of condoms distributed to community members via condom dispensers

This evaluation also seeks to compare:

  • Pre- and post-campaign knowledge, behaviours, and attitudes with respect to syphilis among members of the target community.
  • Pre- and post-campaign knowledge, behaviours, and attitudes with respect to syphilis among health workforce and other community stakeholders.
  • Pre- and post-campaign syphilis testing rates at SWAMS.
  • Pre- and post-campaign syphilis notification rates in Southwest region of Western Australia.


Dr Daniel Vujcich (Curtin University)

08 9266 3668