Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Public urged to back sexual health campaign

People in the UK are being urged to sign a petition calling on governments in 179 countries to improve the sexual and reproductive health of young people across the world.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is asking people in the UK and worldwide to sign the Count Me In: Sexual Rights For All petition, as part of its 15andCounting campaign, launched this week.

The charity is aiming to collect a million signatures, which they will present to the United Nations (UN) in New York on October 12.

This year is the 15th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development where 179 governments agreed on a 20 year programme of action to improve the sexual and reproductive health of everyone - forming part of the UN's Millennium Development Goals.

IPPF said that with only five years remaining to meet their commitments, many governments are failing to make progress against these goals, particularly in meeting the needs of young people.

According to the IPPF more than 200 million young women worldwide still do not have access to the contraceptives they require and only 17% of sexually active young people use contraceptives.

Although young people in the UK have access to safe abortion, contraception and maternal health services, the country has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Western Europe and STIs are widespread, the IPPF said.

Paul Bell from the 15andCounting campaign, said: "While the UK has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe, the UK Government has made a commitment to making sex and relationships education a statutory subject in the national curriculum, long the missing link in the teenage and sexual health strategies. This can only be good news in improving the long-term health and wellbeing of our children and young people.

"Yet around the world the health and wellbeing of more than 1.5 billion young people is being jeopardised for want of political and financial commitment to young people's sexual health.

"This is completely unacceptable and we urge people across Britain, as well as the rest of the world, to join our campaign and sign the 15andCounting petition, which will be presented to the UN in October to pursued governments to deliver on their promises."

The IPPF's campaign is aiming to help people like Johanna, a 15 year old Bolivian prostitute. She said: "It is not good living in the streets but I would rather be here then at a government institution, where I wouldn't get to see my friends. I know all about STIs and HIV - Tina (a nurse from CIES, IPPF's Bolivian affiliate) talks a lot about it. I don't have a boyfriend but if I did I would try to make him use a condom but that's not an easy thing to do. I don't always use a condom with my clients because they don't want to use one. They pay less if they are made to use one and my boss doesn't let me either."

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "The department, working with the Department for Children, Schools and Families, is undertaking an extensive programme of work to improve sexual health, particularly targeting those groups at highest risk including young people. Progress is being made, there has been a 10.7% fall in the under-18 conception rate since 1998 reversing the previous upward trend.

"The Government has also announced its intention to make personal, social and health education a statutory subject in schools. In addition, there are targeted information campaigns highlighting the risk of sexually transmitted infections and promoting condom use. A new campaign highlighting contraceptive choice will be launched later this year."

For more information about the campaign or to sign the petition visit www.15andcounting.org or visit www.ippf.org .

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