Sexual Health Week raises STI issue

Sexual Health Week raises STI issue

With the number of sexually transmitted infections on the rise in Northern Ireland, the region's political parties are uniting at Stormont to raise awareness.

Sexual Health Week has officially been launched at a special event at Stormont on Tuesday. The All Party Group on Sexual Health is hosting the event to kick-start the awareness week, which this year has the theme 'Love is...'.In 2012, the highest ever number of cases of the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhoea was recorded for Northern Ireland.Over the space of two years, the rate of the infection 'uncomplicated gonorrhea' more than doubled - from 200 new cases in 2010 to 451 in 2012.Gonorrhoea, a bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI), can enter the bloodstream or spread to the joints if left untreated. In women, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility. An infected pregnant woman may pass the infection to her baby during delivery.New HIV diagnoses also increased by 17% from 81 in 2011 to 95 in 2012. Infectious syphilis is also on the rise.In 2008, the Department of Health launched a five-year Sexual Health Promotion Strategy, with the aim of improving, protecting and promoting the sexual health of the population.The Health Minister Edwin Poots said: "There has been excellent work in support of these aims, for example results from the latest school-based survey highlight that 92% of 11 to16-year-olds reported they have not experienced sexual intercourse."Furthermore, the number of births to teenage mothers continues to decrease and have reached a record low. We must continue in our drive to exceed these achievements."He added: "Action to prevent and treat sexual ill health includes outreach interventions for those most at risk, the opening of clinics in education settings, initiatives in primary care with GPs and community pharmacists, and measures to improve access to sexual health services. However, there is much still to do."The DUP minister continued, highlighting that since the strategy's launch there had been changes in CHAR(13) + CHAR(10)lifestyles and best practice, as well as improved diagnostics."This means we have had to review our strategic approach to promoting better sexual health. As a result, my department is developing an update to extend the lifespan of the Sexual Health Promotion Strategy. This will include a revised Action Plan, which will help to direct and support continued improvements to sexual health."

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