Chlamydia and gonorrhoea testing and treatment pilot in the Cook Islands

People living in the Cook Islands will now be able to access simple testing and treatment for chlamydia, a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that, if left untreated, can lead to increased risk of infertility or early miscarriage.

The Cook Islands Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health, with support from SPC’s HIV & STI Section and Public Health Surveillance & Communicable Disease Control (PHS&CDC) Section and with funding from the Asian Development Bank, is participating in a 12-month pilot programme to enable access to testing and treatment for chlamydia and gonorrhoea. Testing and treatment have become much simpler and more affordable in recent years with the availability of more accurate tests that can be used on urine samples, and single-dose antibiotic treatment.


In the Cook Islands, chlamydia testing occurred for a period a few years ago but ceased due to high costs. More recently, a survey revealed high rates of chlamydia infection among pregnant women.

‘This led to the Ministry exploring opportunities to respond to the issue urgently,’ says Cook Islands Secretary of Health Dr Roro Daniel. ‘These findings probably represent only the tip of the iceberg, so we need to do everything possible to immediately reduce chlamydia infection incidence and prevalence and therefore reproductive health tract complications, particularly among our women.’

Second-generation surveillance studies conducted in the last few years in several Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) identified very high rates of chlamydia infection, particularly among those aged 15–30. In most men and women chlamydia does not have any symptoms or may have only mild symptoms, such as discharge or low abdominal pain in women, which often go unnoticed (see below). Improving access to testing will make it easier to obtain an accurate diagnosis and provide opportunities for treatment with the appropriate antibiotic.

Testing and treatment in the Cook Islands will initially be available in Rarotonga and will then be rolled out to the outer islands early in 2008. Testing, which can be done using a urine sample, will be offered routinely to men and women aged 15–30, as well as to women attending their first antenatal check-up. Treatment involves the administration of just one tablet.

A chlamydia and gonorrhoea testing and treatment pilot is also planned for Solomon Islands in 2008. Funding available through the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) will support testing and treatment in the Cook Islands and Solomon Islands beyond the pilots, as well as implementation of testing and treatment in other PICTs starting in the second half of 2008.



Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are different STIs that cause the same problems

  • Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are most common among those aged 15–30.
  • In many PICTs, up to 20% of people aged 15–30 may be infected.
  • Most men and women have no symptoms and are unaware that they are infected.
  • People can remain infectious for up to two years.
  • Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are easily transmitted through unprotected sex.
  • Properly using a condom during sex provides very good protection against infection.
  • Symptoms in men include pain, stinging or burning when passing urine and/or discharge from the penis.
  • Symptoms in women include discharge, bleeding in between periods, and low abdominal pain (like period pain).
  • Untreated infection can lead to increased risk of infertility, tubal pregnancy, early miscarriage, premature labour and infection of babies during   delivery.
  • Chlamydia is easy to test for (urine sample) and easy to treat (single dose antibiotic treatment).
  • Partners need to be treated to prevent re-infection.



For more information regarding testing in the Cook Islands, telephone the Community Health Services Directorate on +682 29110.


For more information about testing in other PICTs, contac:

Dr Sophaganine Ali, Surveillance & STIs Response Cluster Coordinator, HIV & STI Section, Public Health Programme, SPC,

ph: +687 26 67 77,

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For media inquiries, contact:

Nicole Gooch, HIV & STI Communications Officer, Public Health Programme, SPC,

ph: +687 26 67 71,

email: [email protected] This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .