Sexual health strategy extension

Health Minister Edwin Poots
Health Minister Edwin Poots

Although recent research shows 92 per cent of teenagers haven’t experienced sexual intercourse and teenage birth rates are at an all-time low, Edwin Poots says Northern Ireland’s sexual health strategy needs to be extended.

Mr Poots, speaking ahead of an event to launch the All Party Group on Sexual Health’s ‘Love is...’ awareness week, said: “There has been excellent work in support of these aims, for example results from the latest school-based survey highlight that 92 per cent of 11 to 16-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. 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.   

“Since 2008, we have seen a change in lifestyles and best practice, as well as service developments, such 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.”

Chairperson of the All Party Group, Paula Bradley, said: “The APG on Sexual Health aims to encourage education and information initiatives which enable people to develop and maintain the knowledge, skills and values necessary for improving sexual health and well-being.

“It is our hope that this celebration event will raise awareness in the Assembly of the importance of improving, protecting and promoting the sexual health and wellbeing of women and men in Northern Ireland.”

Other speakers at the Stormont event include Dr Audrey Simpson OBE, Director of FPA for Northern Ireland, Mary Crawford from Brook Northern Ireland and Dirk Schubotz from Queens University, James Copeland from The Rainbow Project, Danny McQuillan from Positive Life and Pam Hunter from Nexus NI.