Sexual health provision needs to be drastically improved in order to cut the rates of sexually transmitted infections amongst the student population, MPs will hear today.
At a lobbying event organised by National Union of Students (NUS UK) and the Terrence Higgins Trust, students from across the UK, including LGBT officers (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) will describe the difficulties they face in accessing sexual healthcare, from long waiting times at GUM clinics to a lack of free condoms.
Students will also draw attention to recent cuts in funding for local sexual health provision, with some on-campus sexual health clinics forced to close as a result.
Over 60 students and students’ union officers will attend the event, held at Portcullis House in Westminster. In addition to calling for shorter waiting times for GUM clinics, the students will also campaign for free condoms for students’ unions advice centres and better sex education at school.
NUS Vice President Welfare Veronica King said: “With STIs on the increase, more should be done to make safe sex as trouble-free as possible but if anything, it seems to be getting harder for students to access adequate sexual health provision.
“As many students fall within the age group most likely to be affected by sexual ill health, services should be getting better not worse.
“Readily available free condoms and shorter waiting times at nearby clinics may seem small steps but both can make it that bit easier for students to practice safe sex.
“We hope MPs and the Government will take on board the concerns put forward by students today and do what they can to improve the current situation.”
Nick Partridge, Chief Executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust who will open the event said: “Although many sexual health clinics are doing their best, most are overwhelmed and under funded, resulting in long waiting times for appointments.
“Young people should have fast, easy access to services which can test and treat them quickly. We need support from MPs to help make this happen. If nothing is done the rising rates of sexually transmitted infections will only continue.”
Nick will also chair a panel debate featuring Baroness Gould, chair of the Independent Advisory Group for Sexual Health and HIV, Dr Andrew Murrison MP, Conservative Party Spokesperson for Sexual Health and Sandra Gidley MP, Liberal Democrat Party Spokesperson for Sexual Health.
A Department of Health spokesperson previously told PinkNews.co.uk on the subject of sexual health provisions, “Our latest figures show that 48% of people are receiving a GUM appointment within 48 hours a target that we have until 2008 to meet and that is written into Local Delivery Plans for all Primary Care Trusts.
“The majority of the £300m we have allocated to Sexual Health is due to kick-in from April of this year and we expect to make a huge difference in the drive towards meeting the clear targets we have set.”