On December 20th Deputy Director of Public Health Chris Lovitt sat down with the scrutiny commission to discuss the updated 5-year plan to improve and implement the City and Hackney Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy.
The deputy director emphasized the importance of developing an action plan due to “high rates of sexually transmitted infection in both City and Hackney.”
2022 was recorded as one of the highest years for gonorrhoea and syphilis diagnoses for young people (16-24) since records began in 1918, according to the UK’s Health and Security Agency (UKHSA). Experts speculate that higher transmission in this age group may be due to a higher propensity for multiple sexual partners.
To tackle these issues, Lovitt further outlined the importance of utilising and expanding online services: “If we are able to join up service a little bit better and then potentially look at how we can put more of the easy to access services online promote access as well as Prevention Services, then we should be able to continue to maintain the services but also increase access and uptake where it's appropriate.”
A similar study during the 2021-2022 period saw a 19% increase in online consultations; from this an increase in sexual health screenings (SHS) was noted, either showing targeted of testing for people more likely to have an STI or a flouting of lockdown rules ultimately leading to greater STI transmission.
Despite increasing numbers of SHS and diagnoses,’ The Family Planning Association (FPA) reported that 26% of 2000 young people were too embarrassed to seek out a sexual health test for fear of a positive result or the exposure of their private lives to friends and family. This finding is in line with the National Institute for Health and Care Research, which reported:
“Young people reported strong reactions including embarrassment, discomfort, and vulnerability, particularly in mixed-sex classes. Some young men felt a need to avoid seeming sexually inexperienced, while some women avoided participation in class discussions for fear of verbal harassment. Many felt unable to ask.”
These views were reflected by the young people’s scrutiny consultation on new strategies, which Lovitt said “ is very much supportive of our approach to focusing on sex and relationship education, but also about how we ensure that our services are young people friendly open accessible, and we will be taking those comments and amending the strategy”.
Yet in an unnamed scrutiny group, some felt that there was an “Overemphasis on sex and relationship education” and “a few, not very many, but a few comments in relation to the trans issue”.
This comes from growing tensions between parents and schools, NHS England have made it clear that parents must be involved before pupils “‘socially transition”’ at school.
Lovitt maintained that while an action plan was the main priority, these issues “are somewhat contentious in some people's minds, but actually in terms of a strategy about how we provide services, it is important that all services are open and accessible.”
Edited by Sydney Smith
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