Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Times: Sexual health policy finally on horizon

Sunday, 13th June 2010 by Ariadne Massa

The national sexual health policy should be delivered "in the coming weeks" after a 10-year gestation period and three different drafts.
The government has finally endorsed the policy's contents and is now working on including some proposed additions before publishing it, a Health Ministry spokesman told The Sunday Times.
The policy seemed destined for sterility seven months ago after it was withdrawn from the 2010 Budget, but the ministry had worked to reapportion funds from within to implement it.
The lack of a clear policy on the way forward has long been felt in the light of figures consistently reporting people having unprotected casual sex - 70 per cent of those who visit the Genitourinary Clinic never use a condom - and an increase in sexually transmitted infections.
A report carried out by a World Health Organisation adviser last November also observed the "strong negative influence of the Catholic Church" on comprehensive sexual health promotion in schools.
However, the government is now intent on rolling out the policy to attain its targets - prevention, care, crisis intervention, and research and monitoring - and reduce the incidence of STIs.
The ministry spokesman said these aims would be achieved through the further development of a healthy public policy, sexual health education in schools, the reorientation of sexual health care, and strengthening and establishing surveillance and research programmes.

Policy's key aims

• Promote a healthy approach to sexuality.
• Ensure all Maltese citizens have access to good quality sexual healthcare, support and advice in a timely and appropriate manner within a confidential setting.
• Increase sexual health knowledge about personal health.
• Ensure everybody receives effective education designed to develop personal skills on sexuality and relationships as part of their personal and social development irrespective of age.
• Provide consistent information about safer sexual practices, the health risks associated with unplanned pregnancy, casual sex, signs of STIs and the availability of medical care.
• Promote a more supportive environment, which encourages openness, knowledge and understanding about sexual issues, fosters positive sexual health and ensures the availability of STI prevention methods.
• Increase programmes aimed at reducing teenage and/or unintended pregnancies.
• Ensure all citizens have access to good quality sexual healthcare, support, information and advice in a timely and appropriate manner within a confidential setting.
• Ensure health protection and prevention initiatives and service provision arrangements take account of socio-economic inequalities.
• Address illnesses and conditions which potentially may become a significant cause of physical and mental ill-health and premature death.
• Reduce the stigma associated with STIs, and promote the social inclusion of people suffering from HIV.
• Reduce the incidence and prevalence of STIs, including HIV, and the complications that may result from these.
• Provide the necessary socio-economical and educational support to teenage parents to enable them to fulfil their life potential.
• Identify ongoing social and health trends in relation to sexual health practices among the population.
[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

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