Exploring sexual health support in Southwark: schools and sexual health services
Young people in Southwark are calling for better education about sex and relationships and improvements to sexual health services.
Southwark has one of the highest rates of prevalence of HIV in the UK and rising numbers of people being diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Because of this, sexual health is a top priority for Healthwatch Southwark. Over 100 people aged 13-25 shared their experiences of sex education and information, access to services and where they prefer to go for support, with their local Healthwatch.
When asked what could be done to improve how young people are supported around sexual health, local people focused on two key areas; improving education in schools, and improving sexual health services.
Improving education at school
- Bring experts in to schools to deliver sex education
Young people told Healthwatch Southwark that external speakers would be better informed and more comfortable with dealing with questions from the students.
- Better education on the social aspects of sex Many people wanted schools to cover the social and emotional aspects of sex including healthy relationships, consent and abuse. They also said they felt it would be beneficial to hear about experiences from people from different sexualities and genders. This would also help improve general social attitudes about sexual health, reducing stigma.
- Make sure that sex education features throughout a student’s education
Although there were mixed opinions about when sex education should start in schools, many agreed that sex education should be built up gradually and reinforced throughout school.
- Young people share their concerns about body image in Sutton
- Young people tell local Healthwatch what needs to change about mental health services
Improving sexual health services
- Better promotion of sexual health services
Sexual health services should be more widely promoted within the community, in schools and on social media with a focus on encouraging young people to get tested.
- Offer anonymous help
Many people wanted an anonymous sexual health service or at least anonymous information sources they could trust.
- Changing attitudes
Empathy and a non-judgemental attitude towards young people were seen as key. Training for medical professionals on how to deal with young people was recommended to help ensure they’re giving information clearly.
Healthwatch Southwark held a meeting where the public could meet with the local council and NHS to hear how they will be using their views to improve services for young people.
Read Healthwatch Southwark’s report on sexual health: Young Voices on Sexual Health
What do you think of sexual health services in your area?
Help improve local service by sharing your experience with your local Healthwatch.