Britain Facing Sexual Health Crisis, Parliamentary Committee Report Says
Britain is facing a "sexual health crisis," as the number of new cases of sexually transmitted diseases, including chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea and HIV/AIDS, have "soar[ed]" in recent years, according to a report released yesterday by the country's House of Commons Health Select Committee, Reuters Health reports (Reuters Health, 6/11). The report found that the number of cases of all STDs have increased over the past six years in England, especially new cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis, which have increased 87%, 108% and 486%, respectively. In addition, the number of new HIV cases has increased almost 12% annually over the past six years but by an estimated 32% from 2001 to 2002 (Adler, Guardian, 6/11). The country's Health Protection Agency said that STD clinics are "working harder to keep up with the trend[s]," according to Reuters Health (Reuters Health, 6/11). According to the committee's report, "long-term underfunding" has left the country's STD clinics unable to meet the demand created by the upward trends in STD rates. In addition, the committee said, "We heard that sexual health services are not meeting the needs of young people and they are being failed by an education system which persistently delivers too little, too late" (Associated Press, 6/11).
Committee Chair David Hinchliffe said, "The committee has been appalled by some of the evidence we have received -- the whole sexual health service appears to be a shambles" (Guardian, 6/11). Hinchliffe added, "Changing people's attitude to sex cannot happen overnight. But it is vital we commit ourselves to prioritizing sexual health and improving the way in which we educate young people -- especially young men -- about relationships and sex if we are going to prevent an even worse situation being passed on to the next generation of young people" (Agence France-Presse, 6/11). Some members of parliament recommended that sexual health clinics be established in secondary schools and that health workers develop a network that could target youth in nightclubs and sports clubs, London's Guardian reports. They also said that officials should reconsider the use of Web site filters that prevent students from accessing any sexual information on school computers. The members recommended that the government provide more than $50 million in additional funding to sexual health clinics, which currently receive almost $17 million. Also, the members said that they oppose mandatory HIV testing for asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants, an idea that is currently being considered by the government (Meikle, Guardian, 6/11).