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Wednesday, 1 August, 2001, 09:55 GMT 10:55 UK
Do the sexual health guidelines go far enough?
Plans to test much more widely for sexually transmitted infections have been unveiled by the government.
The long-awaited National Strategy for Sexual Health is launched as official figures are released showing sharp increases in STI rates - with gonorrhoea at its highest in over a decade.
The government's strategy will include a targeted screening programme for chlamydia - a sexually transmitted disease that can leave women infertile - and more routine testing for HIV/Aids.
But campaigners say the new measures are far too limited in their scope.
Do the guidelines go far enough? What can be done to improve the situation?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I'm a doctor specialising in sexual health and HIV. I think a few facts need setting straight. Has anybody posting a message complaining about the price of condoms actually visited a sexual health clinic? I guess not, because if they had they'd know that they give them out for free. And let's not be too keen to jump onto the doom bandwagon. The most encouraging statistic from the PHLS's survey of sexually transmitted infections regards HIV. If you read the figures properly, you see that new HIV infections acquired in the UK are remarkably stable - for instance there's been no significant change in the number of new diagnoses amongst gay men for 10 years. The apparent increase in new heterosexual cases of HIV is in reality, HIV acquired abroad, mainly in Africa, by people who have come to live in the UK.
Also regarding cases of chlamydia, the apparent leap in new infections is because we are now actively trying to diagnose the disease rather than simply treating it as a non-specific infection.
It should also be remembered that the vast majority of STI's can be treated easily, effectively, and in those who are worried about tax, cheaply.
A much broader view of sexual health also needs to be taken. It's really noticeable that the people with the worst sexual health have the worst education, and live in the greatest poverty.
It's a fact that people who have the fewest hang-ups about sex, are knowledgeable about sex and know how to protect their own and other people's sexual health have the best sexual health.
It's also a sad fact that the people least likely to seek treatment for sexual health problems are those who have stigmatised their sexuality.
Guy Chapman, UK
The state has to do this. Too many parents are unable or unwilling to dispense unbiased, accurate advice. Condoms should be made more freely available at low or no cost. Teenagers will have sex whatever, so society either tut-tuts and fumes impotently or intelligently deals with the realities of modern life.
Follow the Dutch example. Educate the kids early and stop selling them the lie that sex is taboo, dirty, unspeakable, or downright bad. It is one of our strongest natural instincts; to repress or suppress it leads to a multitude of problems, not least of which are sex crimes, STDs, and unwanted pregnancies. Ever stopped to wonder why Holland has the most liberal sexual education programs and one of the lowest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe? It isn't a statistical aberration - the two facts are clearly related.
Must agree with Tom K, we are in a very immature society where everyone knows and is told of their rights but no one understands their responsibilities.
When the easiest way for a young girl to get a place to live is to get pregnant how can the number of unwanted children ever decrease.
Our children are growing up in a world where to get a home means that they have to spend two-thirds of their income on a mortgage which also means that if they lose their job they lose their home.
As usual the Government concentrate on a symptom and not the cause.
Tom K, UK
I think this is something the state HAS to do. There are some parents who don't have the knowledge to brief kids on STDs. Some parents who won't have the "birds and the bees" talk, either for religious convictions or because they are too embarrassed.
Think about it for a second - Catholicism frowns on ANY type of contraception. Some of the more extreme variants on Islam (i.e the Talaban) won't educate women at all, let alone tell them there are things like Chlamydia which your husband could give you. Someone has to tell these kids to make sure that they KNOW - and not only that they know but that they realise it CAN happen to them.
I can't believe that so many people feel their 'rights' are being infringed here.. I bet you'd feel a lot different if you suddenly found out that someone had just given you a "dose" of something nasty, how's that for an infringement? Wear a condom, volunteer for regular testing and stop moaning about Big Brother.. in this case "he" is trying to save you.
The simple solution to this problem is to stop giving single parent families more. OK that sounds a little extreme because there are single parent families out there who are hard working and have a reason for their situation. But my point is the people who go out thinking "well if I have sex and she fall's pregnant then it doesn't matter cos I'm off after this" or "well I'll have sex and think about it tomorrow". Tomorrow never comes. These people don't really care because if it comes to the crunch and you end up with a child then your OK because everybody else will pay for it or if they contract something they get a cure for nothing anyway. Disease is not an issue here it's responsibility and today there is no such thing because there is always an easy way out, it costs these people nothing.
Has anyone ever stopped to wonder why the pill is dispensed free on the NHS whilst condoms are extortionately expensive. The Government obviously places greater emphasis on the prevention of births than the prevention of deaths.
We should not be teaching our children how to have safe sex, we should be teaching them that they should not be having sex at all before marriage. Can anyone tell me something good that comes from two teenagers aged 15 having sex?
If nobody had pre-marital sex or commited adultery then we would not have any Aids, millions of abortions or broken families.
Are we really so surprised about sexual diseases in this country? We live in a society which treats sex as a recreation. Children are given the message that sex at any age is acceptable.
We should be promoting abstinence . The chief executive of the Family Planning Association seems to thinks preaching abstinence is pointless. Well if it was promoted she would be out of a job!!! The government should stop listening to people like her. Our young people deserve better.
It's time to give some intense media coverage to the problem. Back in 1988 we were informed on TV and in the papers about HIV. Surely this should be done again and include all the other STDs. Sex education isn't covered very well by most schools and parents are often too embarassed to talk to their kids about sex.
The kids of today know some of what they need to know, but for their safety we should have a sex education campaign every 5 years. It should be funded by the government and be aimed at children as well as adults. Knowledge is power, but how can our kids and ourselves be empowered if we're not told precisely what's what.
Let the government take the responsibility for this as an informed nation will be a healthy nation.
The government can only do so much on this issue. Sexual
activity is the responsibility of the individual. You can have as many campaigns as you like, but people will make their own choices. There are plenty of advice groups if people wish to discuss these issues. With other serious issues in our NHS, there has been enough effort and money put into this
I don't believe that youngsters these days are ignorant of the dangers of unprotected sex. If you read any of the teenage magazines you'll realise that they are very well informed of the risks. The problem is with people who want to attack and belittle the opinion of anyone in any authority, in this case the government. OK, so we 'taxpayers' don't want to pay for this campaign. So are we happy to carry on paying out for things like infertility treatment (caused by STD's) and drugs for those infected with HIV?
They should install condom machines in every secondary school in the country too whilst they're at it. That would help stop a lot of the STD's.
Routine STD checks would be, in my view, a great idea. It would take away the social stigma of being tested and bring the country on to a higher level of maturity when it comes to dealing with and talking about sex and diseases. I also believe that HIV testing should be made more widespread and people should get themselves tested every so often for their own peace of mind and again to reduce the stigma associated with testing. We have to act as responsible adults, especially setting an example to the promiscuous young. Again I reiterate - if you do not know that you have a disease, you do not know that you are capable of passing it on to an innocent person. Taking responsibility is our social duty and those who deride the idea are the most ignorant of all.
Great idea! Let's get the government really involved in running our sex lives. Everyone can see how well they've done with education and the NHS. Every nasty disease will be eradicated at a stroke, as the correct set of forms filled in twice would never match personal requirements!
Anders Dybwad, Norway
Clearly everyone does not know the risks associated with unprotected sex. Since we are talking about communicable diseases, this is not a matter for individual choice, but a matter for public health!
One part of this problem comes down to rip-off Britain again: At £1 a condom it's not surprising that teenagers don't use them! Condoms are a lot cheaper in other countries - a pack of 25 cost about £5 in Germany and in pub vending machines they are about 30 pence (1 DM).
I tend to agree with most of the comments (David, John B, Alex Woodrow, MP Marshall) so far, but I can't help thinking that the real culprits are parents. My folks warned me about the consequences of promiscuous sex in such a way that I heeded them; if they hadn't, I'd have made the same mistakes as everyone else.
When I underwent IVF treatment my husband and I were screened for HIV/Aids, STDs and hepatitis as a matter of course. I can't see what all the fuss is about. I am very much in favour of screening for chlamydia if it prevents anyone from ending up at a fertility clinic.
Alex Woodrow, UK
I wondered how long it would be before the government started interfering with what we do in the bedroom...
It's ironic really, we have people demanding the age of consent to be ever-lowered while at the same time others wring their hands in despair at the rise in STDs and bemoan the fact that "nothing can be done". There is NO WAY of being 100% safe from STDs apart from abstinence or monogamy, both of which are distinctly unfashionable. If you want to live by other standards that is your prerogative but I resent my taxes being used to pick up the pieces.
Unlike other policies by this Government that are in line with their intrusive and nanny-state policies, this is a good one and should be encouraged. As a concerned parent, I see this as a good way to stop the spread of these diseases.
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