Friday, 27 April 2012

Another day, another headline, some more myth busting

Yesterday the news was littered with stories about 'girls as young as 13 getting contraceptives without prescriptions in pharmacists'.  I quickly want to put the record straight;

  • most young people under the age of 16 don't have sex so the headline about girls as young as 13 is an overly sensationalist headline which perpetuates myths about the average age of sexual activity  
  • those young people who are having sex at a very early age can be amongst the most vulnerable who they need and deserve excellent help and advice from a well trained professional whether that be a school nurse, a pharmacist, a community nurse or a doctor
  • the pilot scheme run in South East London was as we understand it for people over the age of 16.  It was delivered by pharmacists who were trained and working within Patient Group Directions e.g. strict conditions approved for providing the contraception
  • where pharmacists do provide the contraceptive pill, like any professional working with young people under 16 would need the appropriate skills and knowledge, including being able to use the Fraser Guidelines established over 25 years ago to ensure young people are consenting, safe from harm, mature enough to understand contraceptive treatment and to encourage them to talk to their parent, or another adult they trust.  They will not be handing pills out over the counter 'when they ask to get the pill with their Lucozade' as claimed 
  • this is not going to be rolled out to every pharmacy in England - only pharmacies that have the right environment and staff with the right skills to provide appropriate support to protect young people and promote positive sexual health should even consider providing this service
And on a second lot of myths that underpinned the story;

  • our teenage pregnancy rates are the lowest they have been for 40 years - they are not, at this stage, rising year on year
  • there is no evidence that providing contraception, in whatever setting, encourages an increase in sexual activity at an earlier age.  None whatsoever.  All the evidence shows that good quality sex and relationships education at home and school, connected to visible and trusted sexual healths services delays the age of first sex and encourages contraception use when a young person chooses to have sex
  • sex and relationships education is still not well established in schools, and much more needs to be done to provide young people with the facts and information, skills and confidence they need to be safe, enjoy and take active responsibility for their sexual and relationship choices, and seek help, advice and treatment from a range of sources when they need it. 
Won't it be fantastic when the headline reflects the reality that we see everyday at Brook that young people want to be, can be and are responsible about sex and sexual health, and that the most vulnerable young people need our care, support and attention, not our condemnation and finger wagging.  I await that day. One day soon.

1 comment:

Hayden Tennant said...

Lovely to read. What a shame this could not be front page material.