Sexual Health Week – “It’s about empowering people with the right information and support”
14-21 September marks Sexual Health Week in the UK, supported nationwide by leading charity, Brook. The week's theme this year is “Get your RSE in gear”, to coincide with the new Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) that will be coming to schools across the UK. According to data from Public Health England in 2019, there were 468,352 reported cases of sexually transmitted infections (STI) in the UK, with young people aged between 15-24 most likely to be affected.
To help bring sexual health issues to the fore, from September 2020, it will be mandatory for all primary schools in England to deliver relationship education and for all secondary schools in England to deliver relationships and sex education. It is also the first time that LGBT+ issues and topics will be delivered in the curriculum under this new mandatory teaching.
Anna Murray is a Sexual Health Community Practitioner for Solent NHS Trust based at the Isle of Wight Sexual Health service, delivering care to the diverse communities and young people on the island. From April 2020, Solent NHS Trust has been delivering sexual health services whilst working to positively transform services across the island for the benefit of residents.
Anna is passionate about empowering young people with a safe space where they can feel comfortable talking about relationships and sexual health. She is also an advocate for delivering LGBT+ focused programmes to decrease stigma and to encourage testing amongst those in the LGBT+ community.
Anna said “The new RSE curriculum is just fantastic. We are moving into new times and attitudes towards sex and relationships are changing for the better.
“It’s great that LGBT+ topics will be embedded in a curriculum for the first time, as it will mean so much to a lot of people. These topics must be rooted throughout all of the RSE content and not just a one-off lesson here and there. It will mean that LGBT+ scenarios regarding relationships will be openly spoken about to young people, creating more opportunities for open discussions and providing them with the knowledge to be able to make informed life choices. The RSE will also educate young people about preventing sexually transmitted infections and what they mean. This is also important as young people are still the most likely to be affected by an STI than any other age group in the UK.
“Sexual relationships and relationships in general are at the core of who we are, and we still need to work hard to reduce the stigmas surrounding conversations about sex.
“I believe that engaging with more people about sexual health will lead to better outcomes for their mental and physical wellbeing. We all need to know about healthy relationships and what they might look like and we can provide the skills to help people with questions and education on these sometimes sensitive, subjects."
Solent NHS Trust’s Sexual Health Service provide a programme of Relationships and Sex Education to groups of young people in secondary education, covering a variety of topics, including delay and consent, online safety in relation to sexual risk, healthy and unhealthy relationships, STIs and contraception.
Debbie Zimmerman, Head of Operations added that “by creating a safe space for young people to interact and engage, we can provide accurate information on these topics to help enable them to make more informed decisions, leading to improved health outcomes both physically and emotionally.”
Anna, one of eight Community Practitioners supporting young people throughout Hampshire, Portsmouth, Southampton and Isle of Wight also offer sexual health education and personal development through one to one programmes. We want to reassure young people in our community that there is a safe place to come and talk, where they can get their worries and questions heard. This Sexual Health Week, we want to encourage parents and guardians to talk to their young people about relationships and sex. Information to support parents can be found on our website – https://www.letstalkaboutit.nhs.uk/