Monday, 26 October 2009

sex, alcohol and racism

I have just come back from a joint meeting between the APPG on sexual health and the APPG on alcohol misuse. A specialist liver doctor explained how 20% of people have dangerous or hazardous drinking habits drink 80% of all alcohol. He also talked about research in their local area done in partnership with the sexual health service which showed that about 35% of people attending a GUM clinic to be tested for a sexually transmitted infection thought that alcohol was either definitely or possibly a cause for them taking risks with their sexual health.

Two people from Brook in Birmingham presented on their work with young people and professionals on the links between sex and alcohol. They reminded us that young people are learning about alcohol use and misuse from the adults around them; that we must be mindful that most young people do not have a serious problem with alcohol; that clinical consultations must focus on building a relationship of trust, and that this relationship of trust can only be built if we spend enough time with each individual - we cannot rush people through on a conveyer belt approach. And of course finding enough time is often one of the biggest challenges we can face as professionals.

In an engaging presentation they created a series of spoof newspaper headlines challenging some of the myths about the sexual behaviours and attitudes of both younger and older people. These combined with information about the training course for professionals, 'sex, alcohol and rubber ducks', the offer of a demonstration of beer goggles, picking up pennies, and the display of condoms and condom demonstrators gave the meeting attendees a practical experience of the creative approach Brook takes to educating young people about the links between alcohol and sexual health.

I am just watching last weeks Panorama programme on racism in a housing estate near Bristol. It is really disturbing watching and is making me feel desperately sad. This programme is an urgent reminder to anyone who believes that racism is a thing of the past, and a reminder that we must not stop for one minute in challenging racism in all its forms and promoting positive relations and community cohesion from the earliest opportunity in our schools and communities.

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