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New thinking required on sexual health services

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Carolyn Scott.

Editor

Sexual health services are coming out of the closet. To address continuing rises in sexual infections in the UK, services will see £300 million investment and significant reorganisation. This will make sexually transmitted infections no longer the sole remit of the 'GUM clinic'. See our Policy in Focus feature, page 10.

Sexual health services are coming out of the closet. To address continuing rises in sexual infections in the UK, services will see £300 million investment and significant reorganisation. This will make sexually transmitted infections no longer the sole remit of the 'GUM clinic'. See our Policy in Focus feature, page 10.

Are we all prepared to step into what has been viewed in the past as a specialist area, requiring advanced communication skills and perhaps more open attitudes? According to the Terrence Higgins Trust, nurses working in primary care, for example, can do more to show the gay community that their services are available to them.

This year, a £50 million advertising campaign will raise awareness among the public for the need for prevention. This may also increase the number of those diagnosed, by encouraging people to come forward for testing. Estimates of the number of people with STIs who remain undiagnosed are still high. In the UK, 53,000 adults have HIV/AIDS, for example, but it is thought that about one-quarter of those are unaware of their status. More information about prevention is needed by the general public to tackle this problem, and services for high-risk groups must be improved.

Sexual health may not be your area of expertise but this may be an issue coming your way. The statistics are persuasive: we have the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Western Europe, over 89,000 new cases of chlamydia were diagnosed in one year, syphilis diagnosis has increased by 32% for women; gonorrhoea diagnosis was up by 150%. At the same time, waiting times for genito-urinary services are way beyond the targeted 48 hours. Services are stretched to their limits, and new thinking is required.

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