Sex, Health and Society

The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS) conducts research on sexuality, health and the social dimensions of human relationships. ARCSHS works collaboratively with communities and their organisations, governments and professionals in relevant fields to achieve change in policy, practice and people's lives.

The Sex, Health and Society research program is hosted by ARCSHS. The two major areas of research enquiry are Sex, Gender and Sexuality and HIV, Sexually Transmissible Infections (STIs) and Blood Borne Viruses (BBVs).

Sex, Gender and Sexuality

This area includes more than 25 research projects and investigates the health and well-being of diverse sexuality and gender minorities, including same-sex-attracted and gender-questioning young people. Other areas of research include gender and sexuality based violence and abuse, and changing cultures to promote respect and non-violence, and examine the intersection of sexuality, gender, ageing, disability and mental health. 

HIV, Sexually Transmissible Infections and Blood Borne Viruses

This area includes more than 20 research projects and seeks to increase understanding of communities at risk of, and affected by HIV, STIs and BBVs and people living with these infections. These projects provide research findings to inform the design and delivery of prevention, treatment and care programs at a Commonwealth and State/Territory level.

The ARCSHS BBV and STI project broadsheet summarises current ARCSHS projects in this research area.

Other major streams of ARCSHS research are International Social Research, and Research into Policy and Practice. ARCSHS' research priority areas are detailed at http://www.latrobe.edu.au/arcshs/research-programs.

The ARCSHS Annual Report and Strategic Plan 2012-2015 are available at for download from http://www.latrobe.edu.au/arcshs/publications

ARCSHS' area of social research falls into the field of research 1199 - Other Medical and Health Sciences. These outputs were rated 'well above' world standard (a rating of 5) by in Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) 2012.

Key research projects & partnerships

The Australian Longitudinal Study of Health and Relationships

Researchers: Anthony Smith, Marian Pitts, Julia Shelley, Juliet Richters (University of New South Wales), Judy Simpson (University of Sydney), Wendy Heywood and Kent Patrick

This NHMRC-funded study was established in 2003 to document the natural history of sexual and reproductive health in the Australian population. Evidence provided from this study allows for more effective sexual health interventions and enables researchers to understand the links between risk events and health outcomes. In 2005, the first wave of data was collected, and the fifth and final wave of data collection was completed in 2010. The results of this ground-breaking study not only provide the foundations for future research but are used to inform government policies, health professionals and the Australian public as a whole. More than 25 articles from the study have been published to date in international journals.

Does Talking About Sexuality Change the Game?: Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) Innovations Grant

Researchers: Gillian Fletcher and Sue Dyson

Sport is acknowledged as a site of homophobia; yet gay, lesbian and bisexual (GLB) people participate in sport across Victoria. This two-year project seeks to examine the experiences of GLB sports people and that of their straight counterparts. What benefits arise from sports participation, and what, if any, are the associated costs? A total of 26 interviews with sports people were completed in 2013, as well as a review of Australian and Victorian documents related to sport, participation and inclusion. The final year will see data collected to date used in discussions with leaders of sporting representative bodies in Victoria in pursuit of the overall research aim: development of practical, evidence-based principles for effective promotion of greater inclusion of GLB people in sport.

Sexual Health and Ageing: LGBTI-inclusive Aged Care Assessment Services (ACAS) 

Researchers: Pauline Crameri, Catherine Barrett, Carolyn Whyte and Tim Firth (Western Health)

This project was funded by the Department of Health, Victoria, to support Aged Care Assessment Services (ACAS) in Victoria develop LGBTI-inclusive assessment practices and services. To guide the project, a survey of ACAS Assessors is being conducted, particularly to identify barriers to LGBTI-inclusive assessment. A set of fact sheets will then be developed to guide assessment and a series of workshops facilitated to educate ACAS Assessors and support them to become resource people within their services. The partnership with an ACAS service has assisted in ensuring the project activities address the needs of assessors, as well as fostering recognition for state-wide experts within the field. The project outputs are expected to generate interest nationally, given the focus on LGBTI-inclusive assessment with the development of a National LGBTI Ageing and Aged Care Strategy and the development of a Gateway for aged care and the My Aged Care website. 

From Private Lives to Public Policy: Improving the mental health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Australians

Researchers: Anthony Lyons and William Leonard

This project extends Private Lives 2: The second national survey of the health and well-being of LGBT Australians and is funded by beyondblue and the Movember Foundation. The project is a targeted study of the mental health of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Australians, with particular focus on links with resilience, stigma, social support, LGBT community connectedness, and health service use. It involves a detailed analysis of data from the Private Lives 2 survey to deliver a national community report and a series of academic publications that provide much-needed knowledge of factors related to the mental health of LGBT populations and practical guidance for improving health outcomes. This project began in December 2013 and will continue in 2014.

W3 What Works and Why: Devloping monitoring, evaluation and learning and quality improvement frameworks and tools for enhancing BBV and STI health promotion

Researchers: Graham Brown, Kylie Johnston, Natalie Hendry and Marina Carman 

Health promotion in BBV and STI in Australia needs to respond to rapidly changing circumstances, emerging conditions, and new opportunities and priorities. The evidence base on which to devise adaptations is inconsistently developed, often with an understanding of what works, but with limited evidence on why and how it works, what makes one program more effective than another, and how strategies work together at a systems level. The W3 Project will research and develop sustainable monitoring, evaluation, learning and quality improvement frameworks, tools and other resources. These will then be field-tested to assess capacity to increase understanding of what works, why it works, in what context, and how to adapt it to changing environments. The initial focus of the project will be peer- and network-based programs and their role in health promotion at the individual, community, structural and systems level. This will be achieved through working in partnership with national and state community organisations from affected populations in HIV and HCV with the greatest history and experience in peer-based programs. This project was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health.

LifeTimes: A national cohort study of HIV and ageing

Researchers: Anthony Lyons, Marian Pitts and Jeffrey Grierson

LifeTimes is a national project developed in response to the rapid ageing of Australia's HIV population. It seeks to identify and understand the many challenges and experiences of ageing with HIV, particularly among gay men. In November 2010, a national online longitudinal survey was launched. The survey specifically targets HIV-positive and HIV-negative gay men aged 40 years and over, taking a detailed look at their health and well-being, sex and relationships, living arrangements, and the many things that bring happiness and challenges to their lives. Over 1200 men from all states and territories participated in Wave 1, completed in April 2011. Waves 2 and 3 were subsequently completed in April 2012 and April 2013 respectively, with follow-up participation rates of between 40% and 50%. During 2013, findings from LifeTimes were published in three peer-reviewed journal articles and a summary of key findings is now available on the ARCSHS website. Wave 4 of LifeTimes began in November 2013 and will continue until April 2014. Further twelve-month waves will make it possible to keep track of the health and well-being of HIV-positive and HIV-negative Australian gay men as they continue to grow older. Findings from LifeTimes are expected to continue informing treatment and support strategies for older HIV-positive gay men, as well as approaches to HIV prevention, and are of interest to clinicians, policy makers, support organisations and health service providers, particularly those in the aged-care sector. This project is funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health.

Fifth National Survey of Secondary Students and Sexual Healthecondary Students and Sexual Health 

Researchers: Anne Mitchell, Marian Pitts, Kent Patrick, Wendy Heywood and Pam Blackman

A national survey of the sexual health of Australian secondary students has been carried out approximately every five years since 1992, each of them funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing. The study examines sexual behaviour among Australian secondary school students and their knowledge of STIs. It has been a significant source of key information for policy and programming about STIs and other BBVs for young people, and contributes to the indicators of the National STI Strategy. The fifth iteration of this survey was in the field throughout 2013 and was successful in recruiting over 2000 students from state, independent and Catholic schools in every state and territory of Australia. These data are currently being analysed and will form the basis of a community report for teachers and health promotion personnel in early 2014. A number of journal articles and teaching resources are also planned as outcomes of the study.

Dr Catherine Barrett

Researchers are asked three questions, giving a glimpse into the wide range of research conducted at La Trobe.

La Trobe Research: Sue Dyson

Researchers are asked three questions, giving a glimpse into the wide range of research conducted at La Trobe.

Adjunct Associate Professor Lynne Hillier

Young people, homophobic bullying and wellbeing

Jack Wallace

Viral Hepatitis Social Research program

Finding a supervisor

One of the most important aspects of your research study will be finding a supervisor in Sex, Health and Society .