The Minister of State with Responsibility for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Hildegarde Naughton, has welcomed the publication of the Review of the National Sexual Health Strategy.
Minister Naughton said, “I am delighted to welcome the publication of the Review, which identifies the majority of actions as successfully progressed. Given the pace of change in this area of health, the recommendations of the Review also provide a strong foundation for future planning and I look forward to supporting future service developments, to be laid out in the next version of the Strategy.”
Sexual health has been a priority for the Department of Health; the National Sexual Health Strategy 2015-2020 (NSHS) was developed as a core policy under the Healthy Ireland Framework and remains a priority under the Healthy Ireland Strategic Action Plan 2021-2025. The Strategy aims to improve sexual health and wellbeing and reduce negative sexual health outcomes, recognising the importance of supporting healthy attitudes to sexuality throughout the life course.
Implementation of the Strategy is led by the HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme (SHCPP).
Since the publication of the Strategy, there have been a number of significant developments impacting on sexual health, including the Repeal of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution, the subsequent introduction of termination of pregnancy services, a significant rise in Ireland’s population, both in terms of numbers and diversity and increasing STI rates, nationally and internationally.
Minister Naughton continued, “I share the concern of many regarding the current upward trajectory in STI diagnoses. Under the framework provided by the Strategy, we have been able to provide additional funding to support the introduction of new initiatives, such as Pre- Exposure Prophylaxis for HIV (PrEP), the new home STI testing service and our membership of the HIV Fasttrack Cities scheme, all of which contribute to improved sexual health and wellbeing.”
“The independent review, carried out by Crowe Ireland Advisory, identified 56 Priority Actions within the NSHS, assessing 49 as having been successfully completed. It also sets out 32 indicative recommendations which could be considered for inclusion in the next Strategy, in addition to others identified by partners and stakeholders, that will build on ongoing achievements and optimise the development of a new Strategy.”
Minister Naughton welcomes the convening of the group to work on the development of the new strategy to be published by the end of 2023 and emphasised the following areas as priorities for consideration:
- Improving sexual health information, focussing on positive menstrual health education and awareness, fertility, gynaecology and contraception.
- Implementing a model of care for STI and sexual health service delivery.
- Building capacity and meeting demand for HIV PrEP.
- Further developing and expanding the free contraception scheme for women and the National Condom Distribution Service, to better support people’s contraception and STI prevention needs and recognising the key role of hormonal contraception in treating the adverse symptoms of periods.
Minister Naughton concluded, “I would like to take this opportunity to thank the HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme, our clinicians, staff and stakeholders, for their enthusiasm in engaging with the Review, and our partners in Crowe Ireland who completed it. I look forward to wider collaboration with our stakeholders, and colleagues to improve and expand our delivery of sexual and reproductive healthcare in Ireland further as part of developing the new Strategy.”