First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the ... We all know the school-age rhyme of what comes next, right?

Wrong, says Australian sexual infections expert David Wilson, whose rather unromantic advice is that couples considering an intimate relationship ... er, Down Under ... should really get a chlamydia test first.

News of an epidemic of the disease Down Under was doing the rounds, as it were, Tuesday in the Australian media. (In between sightings of a buff Hugh Jackman around Sydney, that is. Talk about a mixed message.) And for the record: Hugh Jackman doesn't have chlamydia, or any other STD. 

New cases of the easily transmissible infection, which can leave women infertile years later, rose by 17 percent in 2010 to 74,305, the University of New South Wales' Kirby Institute reported to a sexual health conference.

Wilson calls it a ''very concerning'' trend and "advises couples beginning an intimate relationship to discuss their sexual history and to have a doctor prescribe a chlamydia test, available by means of a simple urine test," the SMH reports.

The figures also showed gonorrhea cases rising by 25 percent to 10,015 last year, with much of the rise has been linked to gay men.

The good news — yes, there is a glimmer — was that the number of new HIV diagnoses in 2010 totaled 1,043, staying about the same rate of infections as over the past five years.

Back to the bad news...

According to Wilson's research, indigenous Australians — Aborigines — suffer far higher rates of sexually transmitted disease (STD) than other Australians "despite being targeted by safe sex initiatives such as Outback trees being festooned with free condoms," The Associated Press reports.

Aborigines were diagnosed with gonorrhea at a rate of 804 per 100,000 last year — almost 27 times higher than the rate of 30 per 100,000 in the wider Australian community, the University of New South Wales' Kirby Institute reported to a sexual health conference.

The diagnosis rate of infectious syphilis was five times higher among Aborigines than other Australians and chlamydia was more than three times higher.

Fact (according to the AP): Aborigines, who make up 2.3 percent of Australia's population, die more than a decade younger than other Australians.

It was unsurprising enough that Aborigines' were suffering disproportionately to the rest of the Australian population that few broadcast media concentrated on the indigenous angle, preferring the shock value of young Aussies spreading STDs like wildfire.

The situation certainly sounds serious enough on that front.

"There is evidence we are facing an epidemic of chlamydia among young people,'' Wilson was quoted as saying.

The good professor by all accounts felt concerned enough to offer some gratuitous relationship advice, suggesting that young people entering a new partnership "practice safe sex and also discuss testing and previous history with partners."

''They can come up with a solution that works for them, getting tested and treatment if they are infected and then perhaps going to condoms after that,'' Wilson said, the SMH reports, noting that the figures pointed to a decline in condom use.

Ready for some more good news? There was reportedly a fall in genital wart infection, thanks to the introduction of the cervical cancer vaccine for teenage girls and young women.

The proportion of young women diagnosed with genital warts at sexual health clinics has dropped from 10.9 per cent in 2007 (when the vaccinations began) to 3.4 per cent last year. The vaccine protects against some strains of the human papillomavirus, which triggers warts and cervical cancer.

Editor's note: This story was updated from its original version.

Related Stories