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IFPA calls for tailored sexual health services for young people

By February 16, 2005News

– Release date: 16 February 2005

Sexual health services specifically designed to meet the needs of young people are critical in achieving reduced rates of crisis pregnancy and STIs, according to the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA).

Speaking at an event in Dublin today (16.02.05) to mark Ireland’s second Sexual Health Awareness Week, the IFPA’s Director of Counselling Services, Rosie Toner said, “it is no longer acceptable that – in an age where magazine covers scream sex and where the theme of sex runs through most TV soaps – the sexual health needs of young people are being ignored.

“Our health service must wake up to the fact that young people are sexual beings, they have sex and, without protection or good quality information, many take risks. This contributes to our high crisis pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection rates.

“In each of the six focus groups that were held in the run up to Sexual Health Awareness Week, young people were emphatic about the need for sexual health services that are non-judgemental and confidential. They also want comprehensive information on contraception and sexually transmitted infections.

“The young people who took part in the focus groups demonstrated themselves to be very responsible, identifying the need for advice to help them to adequately negotiate sex or safe-sex with their partner. They also pointed out the importance of good overall sexual health and STI testing.

“However, despite their desire for better quality information and comprehensive services, most young people indicated that they would not feel comfortable attending their family GP or local pharmacy for sexual health services or contraception. They cited the risk of being ‘judged’, ‘lectured’ or a lack of ‘confidentiality’ among the factors that made accessing local services difficult for them. In the few places around the country where appropriate services for young people exist, the feedback from users was excellent.

“The results of the focus groups should reinforce the need to put in place comprehensive sexual health information and services specifically for young people. This need has already been identified by the Crisis Pregnancy Agency in research carried out last year. It is now incumbent on the new Health Services Executive to develop a comprehensive plan as to how it intends to fund and deliver national sexual services for young people.

“In fact, Ireland needs a Sexual Health Strategy, which not only deals with the information and service needs of young people, but addresses the huge deficit in sexual health information and services for all age groups. The Health Minister needs to take a lead on developing such a strategy.

“Throughout Europe, young people have access to tailored services: in Sweden, young people can attend their school nurse for information and services; in Britain the network of Brook Clinics is available to young people, however, here in Ireland there is very limited service provision. Most young people go through their teens without any access to sexual health services. The sexual health needs of young Irish people are no different from their European counterparts. It’s time their needs were met,” added Rosie Toner.

The Irish Family Planning Association announced today that, over the coming months, it intended inviting groups of young people into its clinics in Cathal Brugha Street and Tallaght so that they could talk to staff and see what goes on in a sexual health clinic. While the IFPA does offer student reductions, it said that it would be up to the Minister for Health to release funding to significantly subsidise the cost of services for young people.