More money needed for sexual heath strategy

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SDLP Health Spokesperson Mark H Durkan MLA has said the Western locality should be given more money to implement the Department of Health’s Sexual Health Strategy.

The Western Trust area was given the least funding of any trust area in the North in the Public Health Agency’s budget allocation which was disclosed to the Assembly’s Health Committee this week.

The Foyle MLA said: “Once again the West is at the bottom of the list when it comes to government handing out resources despite our young population and high levels of deprivation.

“At this week’s Assembly Health Committee I questioned why we have been disadvantaged in the distribution of funds and am awaiting details of the formula used by the Public Health Agency to reach, what appears to be an inadequate figure of £235,244 to implement this vitally important strategy.

“Good work is being done on sexual health by the Western Trust in partnership with community and voluntary organisations such as Opportunity Youth and others. It is, however, vital that these initiatives are properly resourced.

“While we have seen a reduction in teenage pregnancies across the North since 2008, more does need to be done to improve relationship and sexual education.

“Not only is this essential to keep down the number of teenage pregnancies, but also to tackle Sexually Transmitted Diseases as worryingly, figures show a rise in the diagnoses of HIV, perhaps the most serious of all.

“The Department of Health should engage in a public information programme, and those charged with delivering the Sexual Health Strategy must embrace technology including texting, Blackberry Messaging, Facebook and Twitter in order to reach as wide an audience as possible to better people’s sexual health.”