Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Lice and STDs

Jaime's school's headlice outbreak is inspiring me to a new post and a confession ... yes, I once had lice. Except they were not on the top of my head ... they were pubic lice.

It's the nearest I've got to a sexually tranmitted disease (thank a deity) but the story behind it is almost a Moliere farce which I will relate here before I get onto the more serious issues ...

I've already said (here) that when I left home, I started experimenting with my sexuality. And I've already said (here) that I trained as an EAL teacher. As well as teaching practice in the U.K., we went on teaching practice to Portugal in 1987. During my PGCE course I met a woman who was in a long term relationship in Madrid. We had started sleeping together but she still had every intention of returning to C. in Madrid. We all went to Portugal and I, for a brief six weeks, met up with Alex and he gave me pubic lice. As little as we could during six weeks in shared rooms in a pensao, H. (not the one in the leukemia posts!) and I got together ... and as a result, little did we know, those little beasties jumped.

We had arranged to go to Madrid over the Easter holidays. H. and C. would put me up, I would meet some friends ... and H. and I would keep mum. Well, you guessed it, she passed on our friends to C.

So ... we tried to bluff it was bath towels. Could have been but ...

The follies of youth. To be quite honest we were very lucky!

Given NHS Blog Doctor's constantly harrowing tales of deteriorating healthcare provision under the U.K.'s National Health Service, I decided to do some research into what was happening in the field of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or as it is known in the medical profession genitourinary medicine (GUM).

This webpage from the international AIDS/HIV charity Avert says it all. Not happy reading.

First off, the number of diagnosed cases of STDs in the U.K. has increased by 60% between 1996 and 2005. The number of cases of syphilis has gone up by 2054%! Wow!

Something is not right! I will quote from the Avert page ...

"A national audit of GUM clinics, conducted in November 2006, found that only 57% of clinic attendees were seen within 48 hours. Although this represents a considerable improvement since May 2004, when the proportion was just 38%, it still means that more than one in three attendees are having to wait at least two days to be seen. This is a consequence of the government advising people to get tested for STDs and then not providing the resources to enable them to get help.

Long waiting times for treatment at clinics are increasing the spread of STD epidemics. The worst aspect of the soaring STD levels in this country is that they are entirely preventable."

The government's response ...

"In November 2004, UK Health Secretary John Reid announced proposals for a £300 million campaign to tackle the rapidly increasing rates of sexually transmitted infections. "Prevention messages are not getting through," he said, "We need to act now on sexual health - and make it a priority." It was hoped that this money would help to achieve the government's 2008 goal of having all patients seen at GUM clinics within 48 hours.

£130 million of the funding was meant to go towards the modernisation of GUM clinics, with £40m devoted to contraceptive and other preventative services. Another £50m was to be spent on a TV awareness campaign aimed at young people, supposed to be the largest campaign of its kind since the 1980s "Tombstone" adverts.

Whether the planned modernisation actually occurs is highly dependent on the money being spent wisely by NHS Primary Care Trusts (PCTs). Unfortunately, this does not appear to be happening. In August 2006, The Independent Advisory Group (IAG) on Sexual Health and HIV released a report detailing how much of the £130 million given to PCTs had been used to pay off debts rather than improve sexual health services. Of 191 NHS PCTs surveyed, only 30 were actually spending the money exclusively on sexual health services. The rest were using some or all of their allocation to fill funding gaps and combat overspending on hospitals, drugs and GP services.

The TV campaign has been delayed, and its budget slashed from £50 million to just £7.5 million. It is believed that its postponement was at least partly due to concern among politicians and healthcare officials that a general increase in STD awareness would cause more people to seek testing, putting extra pressure on the already overwhelmed and underfunded GUM clinics."

Thank you Dad for throwing a condom at me and giving me a lecture on unwanted teenage pregnancies when you found me kissing my first girlfriend at the age of 14!


Anonymous said...

Grim reading indeed, especially for parents like us. Must find out what the sex education is like here in France. Thanks for making me think about it.

Angus said...

See the summary for France at this link.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Angus. Looks like a good site.