Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Malta Today: Health Ministry launches national sexual health strategy

Health Minister Joe Cassar says sexual health is not only about the medical model but should be embraced by everyone across the board, including lawyers, sociologists, psychologists, local councils and more.

A year after the national sexual health policy was launched, Health Minister Joe Cassar this evening launched the national sexual health strategy. The strategy aims to address sexual health promotion and education, sexual health care services, dignity, rights and responsibility and research and surveillance.

Speaking on education, Cassar said sexual health education is not only about schools but should be endorsed by all key players in society, including parents. He added that sexual activity is not only for the young ones.

“Education is about how we educate ourselves in everyday life,” he said. “Sexual education should not only be taught in schools, but parents, local councils and others who are also involved with youths should beinvolved.”

“Classrooms are not the only teaching arenas,” Cassar said, adding that local councils, for example, could come up with initiatives which would help increase sexual education.

Cassar said that sexual health forms part of an individual’s health, including physical and reproductive maturity, and also entails the social aspect of how an individual embraces sexuality.

“Sexual health includes the responsibility of how you look at yourself and the ability to build relationships with others in a way that protects your partner’s and your health.”

Chief Medical Officer Natasha Muscat Azzopardi said that the strategy is not only about preventing diseases and infections and reducing the rate of teenage pregnancies, but has as its core the function to improve and spread knowledge about sexual health.

Public Health Superintendent Ray Busutil said the emphasis is on education and research and added that a website about sexual health will be launched soon. Busuttil also highlighted the importance of surveillance.

On this, Dr Miriam Dalmas said that “the cases that are currently being notified are thought to be an underestimate of the true numbers for both incidence and prevalence in the general population.”

Dalmas went on to say that other forms of surveillance are necessary to better measure the true disease burden and to monitor more effectively the situation for relevant trends and developments.

Busuttil said that a purpose-designed sexual health clinic and a specialist-led service is being developed at Mater Dei Hospital.

The Minister was however not in a position to say when the genito-urinary(GU) clinic will be transferred from Boffa Hospital to Mater Dei. Cassarhowever assured that a location has already been identified and the budget allocated.

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