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High rates of STDs among children in detention

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Alarm has been raised about the health of children being held in immigration detention following evidence that many have been infected with sexually transmitted diseases.

Prominent child psychiatrist and AMA member Dr Choong-Siew Yong warned immigration officials last year that there were “high rates of sexually transmitted infections among UAMs (unaccompanied minors)”, according to documents obtained by The Australian under Freedom of Information laws.

The warning from Dr Choong-Siew was contained in the minutes of a briefing made by the-then Detention Health Advisory Group in May last year, The Australian said.

According to the minutes, Dr Choong-Siew said there was an “apparent lack of a consistent approach to child protection across the immigration detention network”.

“In addition, staff appeared not to have a clear understanding of child protection procedures, including in relation to clients being transferred into community detention.”

The AMA has consistently raised concerns that detention puts the health of immigrants – particularly children – at risk, and has called for the appointment of an independent group of health experts empowered to inspect detention centres and report directly to Parliament.

A separate report obtained by The Australian under FOI laws indicated there were 18 confirmed cases of HIV among asylum seekers since August last year, when tests for the disease were included as part of standard health screening.

The report found that, while diagnoses of HIV had jumped in the second half of 2012, at the same time the incidence of threatened and actual self-harm had plummeted, from 778 cases in 2011-12 to 96 cases between last July and December.

According to the documents, officials attributed the decline to improved mental health training for detention centre staff, a reduction in the average time spent in detention, and the use of community detention options.

Adrian Rollins