MPs Highlight Sexual ‘Public Health Crisis’

An influential committee of MPs has warned the dramatic rise in sexually transmitted infections has reached crisis point, stretching NHS services to their limit. The Commons health committee called for urgent government action and a doubling of funds to tackle the ‘public health crisis’

The MPs criticised the NHS for failing to recognise, never mind address, the growing problem; lambasted poor political leadership; and highlighted a lack of funds and ageing equipment. They recommended the creation of a network of school-based teenage sexual advice clinics and programmes targeting young people in recreational environments such as nightclubs and sports clubs.

‘I do not use the word lightly, but during the course of the inquiry, it has become plain that with sexual health we are looking at a public health crisis,’ David Hinchliffe, the Labour chairman of the committee, said. ‘It is vital we commit ourselves to prioritising sexual health and to improving the way in which we educate young people, especially young men, about relationships and sex if we are to prevent an even worse situation being passed on to the next generation of young people.’

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This was taken from written material but I have included the press release below as it may be useful.

UK Parliament

Press Release: Wednesday, 11th June 2003 (Health Protection Agency)

Sexual health trends continue to decline

On the publication of today's report from the Commons Health Select Committee on the implementation of the government's sexual health strategy, the Health Protection Agency confirms that trends in sexual health care are continuing to decline.

Dr Kevin Fenton, Head of the HIV and STI division at the Health Protection Agency said,
'We have seen a continued increase in new diagnoses of both STIs and HIV over recent years. Bacterial STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis have all more than doubled since 1995 and although condom use has increased, this is offset by increases in high-risk behaviour as shown in the recent National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL 2000). Certain groups tend to be disproportionately affected by STIs including young women, gay men and some ethnic minorities. If left untreated, these infections can lead to serious long-term consequences such as ectopic pregnancy and infertility in women.

'The rise in HIV infections has also continued with 5,300 new HIV diagnoses reported so far for 2002. When all reports are received, this figure is expected to reach 6,600, which is a 26% increase on 2001. As more people are treated with anti-retroviral therapy, the number of people living with HIV in the UK increases and this further adds to the workload of GUM clinics. We are currently seeing more new HIV diagnoses amongst gay men - a group in which new diagnoses had been stable and amongst heterosexuals, migration and international travel are important contributing factors especially from countries of high-prevalence such as sub-Saharan Africa.

'These rises have led to an increase in workload for genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinics up by 17% from 1996 to 2001. Delays in treatment can result in a risk of infection spreading to a wider group of sexual partners and exacerbating the problem.

Dr Fenton concludes, 'In order to tackle this increasing burden we all need to take responsibility for our own sexual health, which includes the use condoms with all new and casual sexual partners'


Notes to editors

1. The Chief Medical Officer's strategy for infectious diseases identified sexual health and in particular HIV, hepatitis B and C as areas that required action. The work of the HIV and STI Division at the Health Protection Agency to achieve this includes monitoring of trends in both STIs and HIV; monitoring the outcomes of the sexual health strategy including uptake of HIV testing in GUM clinics and monitoring of Hepatitis B vaccination in gay men attending GUM clinics and providing support to the Department of Health's chlamydia screening roll-out programme currently running in 10 sites across England and Wales.

2. GUM clinic workload encompasses all patients attending a GUM clinic for check-ups with either newly diagnosed infections or recurrent infections, HIV testing and counselling. Total workload in clinics increased 17% from 482,815 in 1996 to 695,097 in 2001.

3. The Health Protection Agency will be releasing STI data for 2002 at the end of June.

4. New diagnosis of chlamydia increased 10% from 64,800 in 2000 to 71,125 in 2001, and in the same time period gonorrhoea increased by 7% from 21,131 to 22,697 and syphilis by 119% from 327 to 715.

5. For the latest sexual health report issued by the Public Health Laboratory Service go to: http://www.phls.org.uk/topics_az/hiv_and_sti/publications/sexual_health_in_britain.htm

6. For the latest STI and HIV data go to: http://www.phls.org.uk/topics_az/hiv_and_sti/default.htm

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