Tag Archives: Sexual Health

There’s currently an outbreak of Hepatitis A affecting gay and bisexual men.

Hepatitis A outbreak in England under investigation

Public Health England is investigating a hepatitis A outbreak predominantly affecting men who have sex with men. Between July 2016 and 2 April 2017, 266 cases associated with the outbreak had been identified in England. At least 74% of these were among MSM, and 63% of cases were in London. There is evidence that there have been some cases in the wider population linked to the outbreak.

A high proportion of cases likely acquired the infection abroad at the beginning of the outbreak, but transmission now mainly occurs in England. The outbreak comprises three concurrently-circulating genotype Ia strains, previously not seen in England. Hepatitis A outbreaks caused by the same strains are concurrently occurring in 12 European countries and elsewhere in the UK outside of England [1,2].

As part of the outbreak response, PHE together with the British Association for Sexual health and HIV have recommended that MSM with one or more new or casual partner in the last three months are opportunistically vaccinated in GUM clinics at their next appointment. In addition, pop-up vaccination clinics have been set up around gay venues in London. PHE is considering wider vaccination strategies to respond this outbreak, which is occurring in the context of a global shortage of hepatitis A vaccine.

See the PDF version of this report for the epidemiological curve depicting the outbreak.

References:

  1. ECDC (December 2016). Rapid risk assessment: hepatitis A outbreaks in the EU/EEA mostly affecting men who have sex with men.
  2. Beebeejaun K, Degala S, Balogun K, Simms I, Woodhall SC, Heinsbroek E, et al (2017). Outbreak of hepatitis A associated with men who have sex with men (MSM), England, July 2016 to January 2017. Euro. Surveill. 22(5), 2 February.

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Lorry themed condoms tackle India HIV Transmission & M1 Healthy Hub Roadshow

In India, it is estimated two million lorry drivers regularly use sex workers – but barely 10% of truckers are using condoms. – Story via BBC News

Health officials say there is a strong correlation between HIV infections and the routes used by truckers.

To help raise awareness, lorry-themed condoms are being sold. The colourful packaging of the Dipper brand has been designed to replicate the bright designs of India’s trucks, and 45,000 packets were sold out in just a few days.

This project is not unsimilar to the Healthy Hub Roadshow, an initiative set up by LASS CEO Jenny Hand and Holistic Practitioner Jacqui Tillyard together with  six HIV and Sexual Health Organisations located along the M1 corridor between Luton and Nottingham.

Healthy Hub Roadshow Staff and Volunteers

Healthy Hub Roadshow Staff and Volunteers (© Robson:2016)

The main aim was to raise awareness for Safer Sex, HIV testing, AIDS prevention and condom distribution.  The Roadshow also offered a range of other related health tests and information including diabetes blood sugar level test, BMI, cholesterol and Blood pressure tests to encourage healthier lifestyles.

The roadshow is now closed, however you can find valuable information online at http://healthyhubroadshow.co.uk 

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About the crisis, no not the referendum.. the sexual health crisis!

hangingout

Sexual health and HIV agencies have been left out to dry.

The UK is facing a rising demand for sexual health and contraceptive care. Unacceptable levels of sexual coercion and female genital mutilation (FGM) are being reported, sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnoses are increasing [pdf], and the UK still has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in western Europe.

Despite all of this, key services are facing monstrous budget cuts alongside so many other sectors of our increasingly weary NHS. This means clinic closures, the dissolution of preventative health programmes, further pressure on already overloaded GP practices, and horrifying long-term financial costs.

In truth, sexual health services have suffered financially for some time. With the implementation of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, responsibility for sexual health funding was allocated to local authorities and these services put out to tender [pdf].

Private companies can bid for control over them, which the government claimed would improve standards “through competition and choice”. In reality, the winning bids are often ones that offer immediate cost-saving rather than long-term financial benefits and the best possible standards of care.

In 2015, the government announced its £200m public health budget cut, resulting in local councils spending millions of pounds less than planned on sexual health services nationwide. Add to this a potential 40% cut in central funding to local authorities [pdf] and you can see how pressure is mounting.

Elizabeth Carlin, president of the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (Bashh), is one of many specialists to express concern. “Sexual health services play a key role in protecting the health of the nation,” she says. “Coordinated care with sufficient funding is crucial.”

So, what do these services actually do – and what would be the repercussions of service dismantlement?

Let’s start with sexual violence. Approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales alone every year [pdf]. That’s roughly 11 adult rapes per hour. Over 1,200 victims of FGM were recorded between January and March this year, and unknown numbers of girls and women remain unprotected. Gang violence and grooming are increasingly recognised and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community remains at risk from stigma and discrimination. Sexual health services identify and support these vulnerable groups every day so the ramifications of reducing access to this support and expertise will be far-reaching and significant.

Recent coverage of NHS England’s decision not to fund the provision to high-risk individuals of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) – a highly effective HIV-prevention drug – highlighted the extent of our HIV epidemic. About 17% of infected individuals in the UK are unaware of their positive status and an estimated one in 20 men who have sex with men (MSM) aged 15–44 are living with HIV. Sexual health services are responsible for huge proportions of HIV testing, education and specialist care for newly-diagnosed individuals.

STIs remain problematic, particularly in MSM, with a 46% increase in syphilis and 32% increase in gonorrhoea reported in this group by Public Health England [pdf] in 2014. The threat of gonococcal resistance also persists, with the frightening possibility that we could end up with no effective treatment for an infection that affects up to 30,000 people in the UK every year. Expert services are essential to ensure the public is tested, managed and educated to reduce STI transmission and prevent long-term health problems.

Teen conception rates are another important measure of the state of health and society for local councils, yet the UK continues to have the highest figures in western Europe. The Family Planning Association (FPA) 2015 report Unprotected Nation estimates that additional unintended pregnancies due to budget cuts could cost up to £8.3bn over the next five years. That’s coupled with the countless women who will deal with the mental and physical implications of an unwanted pregnancy or abortion. In essence, an unforgivable removal of choice from the UK public.

This list of problems is by no means exhaustive. While the health budget remains a challenge and all the unpleasant health problems associated with sex are easier to ignore, the government’s failure to openly address these issues, support sexual choice and put their long-vision specs on will only take us back to the times we’ve worked so hard to leave behind.

Let’s just hope they’re ready to confront the repercussions of their actions – warts and all.

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Fragmented sexual health system is failing users

sex-ed

The reorganisation of sexual and reproductive health and HIV services in England that occurred when the Health and Social Care Act 2013 handed over commissioning responsibility to local government has led to lack of accountability in a complex, fragmented system that is having a direct, negative impact on patients, according to an all-party group of MPs. Their inquiry has found a lack of proper oversight of the quality and outcomes delivered by commissioners, and a lack of national direction on training and development.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health in the UK – chaired by Baroness Gould of Potternewton and supported by FPA, the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare and the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV – called yesterday for clarification about national accountability, better data linkage, a single funding mechanism across all services, ongoing ring-fenced public health funding, adequate staff training to be specified in contracts and mandatory sex and relationships education in all primary and secondary schools. Baroness Gould said: “A common theme throughout the inquiry was the lack of clarity identifying who is ultimately responsible at a national level for these services, and what powers they have to drive up standards and outcomes across the country.”

The APPG took evidence from the government, Public Health England, Department of Health (DH), Local Government Association, and representatives of royal colleges, charities and NHS trusts across the country. It reported:

  • Structural divisions in commissioning between the NHS, public health and social care had a significant impact on commissioning responsibilities for sexual health, reproductive health and HIV.
  • There is insufficient national coordination to enable local commissioners to work together effectively in sexual health, reproductive health and HIV. The Health Secretary should clarify and publish a clear accountability structure for sexual and reproductive health and HIV services ‘as a matter of urgency’.
  • Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), local authorities and NHS England need to be accountable for improvements delivered by the service providers they commission for sexual health, reproductive health and HIV.
  • Directors of public health and health and wellbeing boards need to work together to improve integration between services commissioned by the NHS (including general practice) and those commissioned by public health.
  • Commissioners should use a single funding mechanism, either the tariff or a block contract, across all services to avoid income-driven incentives leading to distortions in provision unrelated to patient need.
  • Short-term procurement reduces the incentive to properly train and develop staff and encourages providers to only deliver services to the letter of the contract. Provider contracts must make ongoing education and training mandatory.
  • GP data should be linked with other data in sexual health, reproductive health and HIV, to provide a full picture.
  • Local authority budget cuts for public health will lead to reductions in the service they commission and create knock-on costs for the NHS. The DH should extend the period of the ring-fence for public health as part of the autumn Spending Review.
  • Sex and relationships education should be statutory for all schools including academies and free schools.

Baroness Gould commented: “In transferring commissioning to a local level, it was anticipated that there would be integration and opportunities for joint working – all focused on the specific needs of local communities. In some places these aspirations are being realised and we heard evidence of good practice and successes but, in many areas, these structural changes have created a complex and fragmented system that is not in the best interests of the people who rely on these services.”

Who do you think we are? An insight into the lives of sex workers.

sex-work

A short season of six films offering insights into the lives of sex workers.

Delivered in partnership with Firefly Leicester Community Interest Company and supported by the Big Lottery Fund, the season aims to raise awareness amongst care professionals and the public of how stigmatised representations of sex workers can have a life-threatening impact upon them.

Following each of the films – three of them Italian, three British – there will be Q&A sessions for the audience to explore stereotypes and prejudices with guest speakers including activists, researchers and former sex workers.

Please see individual films for more details. All films are free and seats allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Personal services

Thurs 12 Feb 7pm FREE
1987, Terry Jones, UK

Personal-Services

Waitress and single mother, Christine struggles to make ends meet. She thus decides first to prostitutes herself and then, with a business-like, practical turn of mind, opens what will become a successful brothel. Inspired by a true story.

Guest speakers: – Stand-up Comedian and former sex worker Miranda Kane  and Professor of British Cinema Steve Chibnell (DMU)

ROCCO E I SUOI FRATELLI (ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS)

Thurs 19 Feb 7pm FREE
1960, Luchino Visconti, Italy (subtitled)

Rocco

A controversial masterpiece. A sterile sense of male honour leads to violence and death. Recently immigrated to Milan from southern Italy, Rocco and his brothers seek a better future when a young disenchanted woman enters their lives.

Guest speaker: Sharon Wood (University of Leicester)

IRENA PALM

Thurs 26 Feb 7pm FREE
2007, Sam Garbarski, UK, Belgium, France.

Irena

Middle-aged Maggie must find a way to get enough money for her grandson’s lifesaving medical treatment. When a ‘Hostess Wanted’ sign catches her eye, Maggie naively stumbles into a city sex club. Shy Maggie has a rough start at ‘Sexy World’, more than just a train ride from her conservative suburb.

Guest speaker: Director of Services at Ugly Mugs and a member of the National Police Working Group on Prostitution Alex Bryce

MATRIMONIO ALL’ITALIANA (MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE)

Thurs 5 March 7pm FREE
1964, Vittorio De Sica, Italy (subtitled)

Marriage-Italian-Style

In Naples, in the Second World War, the businessman Domenico Soriano meets the seventeen years old prostitute Filumena Marturano (Sophia Loren) in a brothel during an allied bombing. Flash forward to the post-war years, and the two meet again, sparking a passionate affair that spans two decades.

Guest speaker: Pia Covre, vice-president  of the Committee for Prostitutes Civil Rights, Italy.

NORMAL

Thurs 12 Mar 7pm FREE
2012, Nick Mai, UK.

Nick-Mai

Normal is creative documentary based on original anthropological research on the relationship between migration, the sex industry and sex trafficking. The film brings the real life stories of male, female and transgender migrants working in the sex industry to the screen.

Guest speaker: To be confirmed.

LA BOCCA DEL LUPO (THE MOUTH OF THE WOLF)

Thur 19 Mar 7pm FREE
2009, Pietro Marcello, Italy (subtitled)

Wolf

Multi-award winning Pietro Marcello’s feature documentary unfolds a beautiful love story between Mary and Enzo who have been waiting and wanting each other since they first met behind bars. Set in the Italian port town of Genoa, the film is a tribute to love and to the city.

Guest speaker: Porpora Marcasciano, president of the MIT (Transsexual Identity Movement), and director of Divergenti – Festival Internazionale di Cinema Transessuale, Bologna, Italy

Information via Phoenix & Leicester Red Project

The Leicester Red Project is a six week season that aims to raise awareness around the stereotypical and stigmatizing representations of sex workers.  For more information, please visit their website: http://www.leicesterredproject.co.uk/

 

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British Schools Desperately Need Same-Sex Sexual Education

Young gay men embracing

Discovering I was gay in the overbearingly macho culture of 1990s South London – and in the shadow of the AIDS epidemic, with its imposing tombstone advertising campaigns – was scary and isolating. If that wasn’t enough, I also grew up in a huge Greek-Cypriot family with parents who were actively involved with the local church. This all amounted to a mountain of repressive crap for a little gay kid to have to climb.

You’d think the education system would have been a place where society’s judgemental, moralistic tones would be given a rational perspective – where religious doctrine would be balanced with scientific fact. Unfortunately not, if – like me – your teenage years are spent in a Roman Catholic school. As such, my sexual identity was a source of shame. It became buried within pervading fears of rejection from the people who put a roof over my head. No wonder so many young LGBTI kids are so desperate to flee their rural towns or villages.

My coming out was a long and painful process. I didn’t have any gay friends so I went out to a bar and made some. One of my earliest sexual experiences, aged 19, resulted in me being raped by two guys who took advantage of me after getting me drunk.

I didn’t report the incident to the police or my teachers because I didn’t feel I could. (With Section 28 still in place at the time, my Catholic school would hardly have been much help.) I didn’t tell my family because I feared their reaction to finding out I was gay. I didn’t even go to a sexual health clinic because I didn’t know that option was open to me. I didn’t do a lot of things, because nobody told me I could.

Sadly, little has changed since then in terms of our attitude towards educating young people on having healthy, informed sex lives. As long as you’re not causing harm to anyone else, being able to enjoy your body as you desire to is a pleasure we are all entitled to. Education about sex, relationships and sexual health during a young person’s formative years is key to this. It teaches an open dialogue, encourages young people to seek advice and help, and empowers them to challenge situations where they feel pressured into unwanted experiences. What kind of society do we exist in that puts children and young adults in a place where they have to discover these basic life skills without any support?

I’d like to say we’ve moved on from the 20th century education system when it comes to sex and relationship education (SRE). But while the world might have made all sorts of other huge leaps, the teaching of young people about the fundamental aspects of human existence – sex and relationships – seems to have remained in the dark ages.

Our world is highly visual now, and the fact that porn is so stupidly easy to access online presents another problem: while there’s not necessarily anything wrong with consenting adults having sex in front of a camera, what’s harmful is that teenagers aren’t been taught the difference between fantasy and reality. Through the access to apps and websites, a young gay teenager can end up in a sexual situation that he or she is not prepared for.

Yet, schools are still not required to teach any SRE beyond the very basic lessons about the procreating benefits of inserting a penis into a vagina. A dismal 25 percent of young people consulted by the Sex Education Forum considered their SRE to be “good” or “very good”. Even Ofsted described SRE in English schools as “not yet good enough”.

“Anything we learned at school was about heterosexual sex,” says James Hansom-McCormick, 24, originally from Nottingham and now living in Surbiton. “It was all about how to have a baby or how not to have a baby. No information about STIs. It was completely isolating. They’re teaching that heterosexual sex is the right thing to do, so I’m thinking: ‘Are my feelings wrong?’ There was nowhere I could go to for information.”

For many gay men, the first awareness of facts surrounding HIV and other STIs comes via the advertising in gay clubs, bars and gay media. For young teenagers who are just discovering their sexuality and have yet to engage in the wider gay scene, there’s a dangerous lack of accessible, correct information. And if schools don’t teach it, you can be sure most parents aren’t addressing it, either.

“Friends would joke about what they’d heard – like chlamydia – but we didn’t know what it was,” James tells me. “I was having so much unprotected, casual sex at 16 and 17 and had no idea about HIV until I contracted it.”

Does he feel he would have been more cautious if he knew the facts at a younger age? “Completely. I think it would have put a stop to me having unprotected sex.”

There’s a very real problem when the first meaningful encounter the vast majority of guys or girls have with sexual health information comes when they attend a clinic because they have a problem. Young gay guys are afraid to speak to their teachers or friends about sex for fear of reprisals. In the eyes of the law we may have more equality for LGBTI people since Labour scrapped Section 28 and the Tories delivered us equal marriage, but equality does not deliver acceptance. It takes time for laws to have a fundamental effect on society’s views.

What needs to happen for a change of attitudes towards LGBTI people is for all types of relationships to be included in statutory age-appropriate SRE lessons in schools. Discussing LGBTI rights within this framework challenges the homophobia that is sadly all too common in schools. Children aren’t born homophobic – they learn such behaviours from their immediate environment. If your parents have antiquated views, it’s hard, as a kid, not to absorb them.

I believe it’s the education system’s responsibility to teach respect and acceptance for all lifestyles, regardless of sexuality. That even applies to my Catholic school in Croydon, because tolerance and love transcends religious rights.

No doubt certain Daily titles will decree that educating kids about LGBTI relationships in schools will see swathes of children suddenly become homosexual. But we all know that’s just not going to happen. Sexuality might be a fluid scale, running from fully gay through to fully straight, but surely the larger outcome of same-sex SRE, in tandem with standard SRE, is that LGBTI people will feel their identities are no longer a source of shame. They’ll be able to go to their teachers for advice rather than suffering in silence.

Over the years, as well as editing QX magazine – the UK’s most widely-read free gay publication – I have campaigned for myriad gay issues, from organising protest rallies outside Downing Street, to highlighting the plight of LGBTI Russians, to running countless features on the day-to-day problems affecting gay men today, from drug addiction to mental health.

But this campaign is perhaps more important than all of those. Why? Because the roots of so many of these problems can be traced back to the same thing: the fact that, often for around a couple of decades, gay people are forced to live two lives. I wouldn’t have lost the first 24 years of my life to fear had my teachers at school made it clear – even in just one of our hour-long classes – that it was OK to have the feelings I had. I probably would have even gone to the police after that night when two men sexually assaulted me.

It was with all this in mind that, earlier this year, I met with other gay media to address the issue of same-sex SRE in schools. They gave their immediate support. I then went to the other key gay health agencies and charities to sound them out on the subject. One of the first people to meet me and commit to supporting this campaign was Dr Yusef Azad from the National AIDS Trust (NAT). He immediately saw the importance of tackling sexual health issues in adults at an early age.

NAT had already been campaigning for all schools to provide SRE for some years, so adding their voice to this LGBTI-specific issue was a natural step. The organisation came on board as a major supporter, lending its expertise to formulating the initial press release and launch campaign.

“Ofsted has described current SRE provision as ‘not yet good enough’, and as many as 85 percent of gay and bisexual men also tell us they received no information about same-sex relationships in school,” says Susie Parsons, Chief Executive at NAT. “The result is unacceptably poor mental and physical health among gay men. HIV diagnoses among young gay men have doubled over the last ten years. In our recent research, young guys who are attracted to other guys told us that they want to receive information on HIV from teachers at school. But we’re clearly not meeting this need.”

Others were quick to show support and, before we knew it, we had over 20 signatories from a broad range of LGBTI organisations – from health charities to groups focused on youth and education. Three key figures to sign on were human rights activist Peter Tatchell (who has been vocal in his belief of how vital inclusive sex education is, saying that “sexual and emotional literacy are just as important as literacy in reading and writing”), Dr Christian Jessen and Lord Norman Fowler. For those who don’t know, Lord Fowler is the man who battled from within Thatcher’s government in the 1980s in the fight against HIV/AIDS, despite strong resistance from his own party. I met him at a book signing in August and asked him to come on board. He was wholeheartedly in favour of the concept, and it was, naturally, a major coup to have such a respected Tory figure as a supporter.

“THE EMOTIONAL HEALTH AND PHYSICAL WELLBEING OF EVERY CHILD AND TEENAGER NEEDS THIS TO HAPPEN”

The Evening Standard carried the story before we issued the press release to national media last month. It was timed to coincide with the start of the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour conferences.

During their conference, the Lib Dems confirmed that SRE for children aged seven onwards would make their manifesto next year, but it’s unclear whether this will include LGBTI relationships. At the Conservative party conference, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan spoke to the Terrence Higgins Trust attendees and discussed the issue of sex and relationships education. “We had a good conversation,” reveals Daisy Ellis, acting policy director at THT. “It was great to hear her talk positively about the importance of preparing young people for life in modern Britain. We believe SRE is a key part of helping young people prepare for their adult lives and we hope that the Education Secretary agrees with us.”

Other signatories, such as Stonewall and LGBT History Month, joined the campaign. By this point we now had over 28 key LGBTI groups supporting us. It was quite overwhelming to see so many organisations agree to focus their support for the same cause.

Two weeks ago I met with one of David Cameron’s advisors, who seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. We spoke for over two hours about the issue, in great detail, while he made notes.

The interest from the Lib Dems and the Conservatives (hello, Labour?) doesn’t mean anything, of course, because the disillusioned masses no longer view politics as a force for making a difference in the world – rather, a popularity contest that’s all about winning votes. And will the SRE campaign (which must include same-sex SRE) ultimately be a vote winner? I’m not sure. Will it make the manifestos of the political parties next year? I hope so. I have faith that good people will see sense and change will come. The emotional health and physical wellbeing of every child and teenager needs this to happen.

Last week, VICE replied to an email from me and were enthusiastic about supporting this campaign, which is another powerful voice on our side. This week, the National AIDS Trust and I posted our open letters (view the letter in full here) signed by all 28 LGBTI signatories to David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg. The ball is now firmly in their court.

Story via Vice

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Have your say on sexual health and HIV services

sexualhealth-and-hiv-preven

Partners across Leicestershire are asking for views to help shape future plans.

Leicester City Council, Leicestershire County Council and Rutland County Council are currently reviewing the provision of sexual health and HIV prevention services.

As part of this, the public health teams are consulting with residents to inform future services.

An online questionnaire is available – for the public, service users and practitioners. Please visit http://consultations.leicester.gov.uk/corporate-resources-and-support/sexualhealth to view the questionaire.

The questionnaire can also be provided in a paper form by contacting Toni Burnet on 0116 3059238 or toni.burnett@leics.gov.uk

Please email/retweet/send this information on to others who you think may have an interest in this consultation.

The deadline for responses is 31st August 2014.

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