Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Clint Walters 'farewell to a hero in the fight against HIV'

Clint Walters, a young man diagnosed with HIV when he was 17 years old died of a heart attack on Easter Sunday aged 31. Below is a link to an article about him and his work.

Clint was a brave and determined man who I was privileged to know over many years. He was relentless in telling me that education and services were not good enough, and I agree - too many young people do not know enough about HIV infection, how to protect themselves, and too many young people don't know where, or are scared to get tested, and too many young people who are diagnosed with HIV are frightened, isolated and hurt.

Clint and I didn't always agree what good enough would look like, but that is irrelevant detail here. It is his passion to change attitudes towards people living with HIV and to improve services for young people with HIV that led him to spend much of his life challenging attitudes and supporting others selflessly and with boundless energy. Ultimately he was also frustrated about the services and support that are, or not available for young people that need them.

Clint's legacy must be a step change in attitudes towards young people and HIV from both professionals and young people themselves. His legacy must be our commitment to ensure children and young people get the education and support they need to protect themselves against HIV infection, that testing is free and easily accessible, and that when a young person is diagnosed with HIV they get the help and support they need.

At his memorial party reflecting on how we can all make a difference, I asked his friends and families to invest their time and support in those charities that aim to improve sexual health, prevent HIV and support those infected with HIV and to hold those same charities and the NHS to account in delivering the services and support young people need. None of us can rest until we there is a lot more progress.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Whatever happened to our hope of statutory sex and relationships education

I woke up this morning feeling perky, hopeful that sex and relationships education would make it through the 'legislative wash up' and become statutory in all state funded schools. So imagine my disdain and concern when I found out earlier today the clauses to make sex and relationships education statutory in the Children, Schools and Families Bill have been dropped over the parental right of withdrawal.

I was hopeful with good cause I think - we have loads of evidence about the importance of SRE in preventing teenage pregnancy and improving young lives and there is a strong broad consensus amongst children, parents and professionals that it is important in helping keep children safe from harm.

This section of the Children, Schools and Families Bill must not be allowed to fall at the last hurdle. Regardless of the politics we must hang our heads in shame if we let down another generation of children and young people by failing to ensure sex and relationships education is statutory in every school.

It is inconceivable that more young people could be allowed to experience the shame, fear and embarrassment about sex and their bodies that we see at Brook clinics every single day. Sex and relationships education is vital to protect children and young people from harm and enables them to enjoy their relationships safely. It is right and moral that schools provide it to complement and supplement what children are taught at home or to fill the gap if they are not.

The link to Brook’s full statement is here: