Conflciting – and wrong messages – about teenage sex
I AM writing to bring to your attention my serious concerns about the manner and direction of the Government and NHS to young people’s sexual health services.
I recently attended a contraceptive awareness training event in Huntingdon. The training was undertaken by a health practitioner, who certainly was very experienced in her field and presented her material with great knowledge about methods of contraception and STIs.
However, what became very clear and concerned me greatly, was that the information and advice being given to young people – many of whom are engaging in under-age sexual activity – are effectively endorsing a sexually active lifestyle, without question, challenge or comment from those who (should) know better: adults and, particularly, publicly-funded health professionals.
It would appear that sexual health clinics operated by the NHS are providing young people with contraceptive supplies and medical treatment (where necessary), but are failing to take into consideration the suitability and appropriateness of what is being offered. These are being supplied without any reference to their age, risks they face by continuing with a sexually active, promiscuous lifestyle, an understanding of appropriate boundaries or basic moral guidelines.
The great misnomer ‘safe sex’ gives young people the false impression that they can have as many sexual partners and follow whatever sexual practices they like, and that all they have to do is: (a) use an appropriate form of contraception to avoid an unplanned pregnancy, and (b) get tested for STIs. However, despite Government propaganda, clearly something is not working seeing as the UK has the highest number of teenage pregnancies, abortions and STIs in Europe.
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What is of particular concern to me is that the presenter was very anxious to assure us at the training event that, according to the law, it is quite OK to supply children as young as 13, with contraceptive supplies completely confidentially, ie, without the knowledge or consent of their parents. This is both appalling and ludicrous. Schools are required to contact parents if their child needs a paracetamol or sticking plaster but not on these vital sexual and health issues! Has the NHS, operating under Government guidelines, assessed how more potentially serious are the risks to a young person being sexually active a time in their lives when they are physically, emotionally and psychologically vulnerable?
As a parallel, the law would do everything in its power to protect an under-age child from the damage of sexual abuse, recognising the dangers and harm that would be done. Yet, it appears that the law also condones sexual health practitioners condoning and therefore, ultimately, promoting early sexual experiences through what they provide, under the notion that they are providing ‘care’.
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What kind of ‘care’ is it that acts irresponsibly and puts the wellbeing and future of our young people at such great risk?
Surely young people need the kind of care that offers them safe boundaries, protection from exploitation and appropriate guidance to make sensible, responsible lifestyle choices concerning their sexual behaviour?
I accept that the words ‘abstinence’ or ‘the delaying of sexual activity’ may not be culturally fashionable to some health practitioners. However, these lifestyle choices are not even suggested or considered. Young people are being given half truths about their lives and their future.
It is clear that contradictions in law and current NHS practices are having seriously devastating results in the lives of many young people. These need to be addressed at a national level as a matter of great urgency.