The Scottish Government updated the national sexual health framework today, promising to involve people affected or living with STDs, HIV positive people in decisions about services and safeguarding their welfare.
The document, entitled ‘Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus (BBV) Framework 2015 – 2020 Update’, was published at the World Hepatitis Summit in Glasgow, seeks greater community involvement of in the provision of services and policies towards HIV positive people and people affected by hepatitis.
It also recognises the impact of UK government imposed welfare reform on people living with HIV and hepatitis in Scotland, and a commitment by Scotland to oppose all further cuts to the welfare budget and reforms which undermine the provision of care and support for vulnerable people until welfare powers are devolved.
The government also emphasised that the framework will now seek the integration of health and social care which will present opportunities for tackling service priorities. For example, Health and Social Care Partnerships could help support a patient-centred approach that will be essential if we are to properly meet the needs of a population aging with HIV.
As part of this ‘multi-agency approach’ the Third Sector will be involved in the planning and design of integrated health and social care services, and funding to it will be secured and protected from the UK government cuts.
In addition, the Scottish government said it will work to develop further policies through collaborative work with the NHS and Third Sector towards chemsex and PrEP.
In order to monitor and build on this framework the Scottish Government will fund a “Framework research manager post to co-ordinate research across the Framework, to support the NHS and other partners in accessing funding and grants, and to work with networks to identify research priorities, to collate and share evidence of what works, and to develop a research strategy for the Framework.”
Prevention will remain a key part of the framework and will be “supporting good relationships and sexual health, and preventing poor sexual health and resultant sexually transmitted infections and/or unintended pregnancies.” This will be done through implementation of Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenting (RSHP) ensuring all young people across Scotland have the information and skills to make healthy choices regarding their sexual health. The government also acknowledged that within the framework “longer term challenges remain in addressing stigma and homophobia, the impact of which may increase sexual risk behaviour and act as a barrier to sexual health and other service use.”
Commenting on the Framework, Maureen Watt, Minister for Public Health acknowledged “that are challenging times ahead. With increasing pressure on the NHS and public sector, with welfare cuts exacerbating problems for many vulnerable people, and with changes in society and culture it is not enough for us simply to do ‘more of the same’.
“We have to think differently and react and adapt to emerging issues and opportunities. This updated document seeks to do that…”
George Valiotis, CEO of HIV Scotland reacted to the update, telling KaleidoScot: “We are glad the Scottish Government have published this update to national policy on HIV, and that they have promised that issues around HIV and sexual health will continue to be a priority for Scottish Ministers across portfolios. HIV is still an issue in Scotland and one that affects far more than individuals’ health.
“The update is a significant step forward from the original framework. We are particularly glad that the government has taken on our recommendations and included statements on some key issues that affect people living with and at risk of HIV in Scotland – from the need to involve people and patients in decisions about services they use, to the devastating impact of welfare reform and the opportunities presented by PrEP. We also welcome their commitment to continue to fund our work.
“The key now will be to make sure the promises and aims set out in framework update are delivered. Over the coming months and years HIV Scotland will be working with government, NHS and third sector organisations to check ministers honour their promises and make real change for people living with and at risk of HIV in Scotland.”
Speaking with KaleidoScot, Alastair Rose, Head of Operations for the Scottish charity, Gay Men’s Health, said he was very pleased with the Framework update: “Its good to get a structure and the Scottish government commitment to it’s implementation.
“We welcome the opportunity to work with other third sector partners, the NHS and government to deliver quality services for MSM and people affected by BBV, HIV and/or hepatitis.
“It is important that sex and sexuality and health is discussed in an educational setting as part of preventative strategy and RSHP.
“It is imperative that that services are able to adapt to existing new trends, including chemsex and PrEP, and we welcome their inclusion within the Framework.
“Providing services for people living with BBV, hepatitis and who HIV positive requires a cross-sectional approach which is envisaged in this framework.
“I am encouraged by the commitment expressed in the Framework, its vision of the participation of the Third Sector and goal of community involvement in service provision.”