A concerted effort is needed by local councils to cut Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) rates and reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, Public Health Minister Anna Soubry said today as she outlined the Government’s ambition to improve sexual health.
While there has been success in reducing teenage pregnancy levels, the latest stats show too many new HIV infections, and that rates of STIs including gonorrhoea and syphilis are increasing in some age groups.
The change in funding for public health will give local authorities the responsibility to improve sexual health outcomes in their area. From 1 April, all local authorities will be given a specific ring-fenced budget which will be used to improve the public health of their communities.
The Government’s sexual health framework sets out ambitions on sexual health, including the need for:
- a fall in the number of unwanted pregnancies;
- greater efforts to prevent STIs and HIV;
- an increase in the number of people in high-risk groups being tested for HIV;
- building an honest and open culture where everyone is able to make informed and responsible choices about relationships and sex;
- making sure that all people have rapid and easy access to appropriate sexual health services; and
- offering counselling to all women who request an abortion so they can discuss the options and choices available with a trained counsellor.
The ambitions in the framework are designed to be used by local organisations when they are looking at how best to provide sexual health services in their area.
Public Health Minister Anna Soubry said:
Despite some improvements, sexual health in England could be a lot better. We need to work together to see a more open and honest culture around sex and relationships. We want to encourage a culture which enables people to make informed decisions free from stigma, coercion and abuse. Sexual health can be a hidden problem, unspoken about among families and friends, and we need to work hard to change that.
To cut rates of STIs, and to increase access to contraception and thereby reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, we need a concerted effort from everyone, especially local councils who will start commissioning services from 1 April. With the launch of Public Health England, there is a real opportunity for local councils to make renewed efforts to improve the sexual health of their communities.
Other ambitions in the framework include:
- continue to tackle the stigma, discrimination and prejudice that’s often associated with sexual health matters;
- give rapid access to confidential and integrated sexual health services; and
- early and effective diagnosis of STIs, including HIV.
The sexual health framework is available to view on the Department of Health website.
For more information contact the Department of Health press office on 0207 210 5239.
Latest figures on STI and HIV rates are available from the HPA website.