Home > Joint Committee on Health and Children debate. HIV-AIDS Strategy: discussion.

[Oireachtas] Joint Committee on Health and Children debate. HIV-AIDS Strategy: discussion. (05 Dec 2013)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/joint_...

Chairman: ….I welcome Dr. Tony Holohan, the Chief Medical Officer, and ask him to make his presentation. 


Dr. Tony Holohan: I thank the Chairman and the committee for providing the time. I am joined by my colleague, Dr. Kate O'Flaherty, who is now heading up the health and well-being programme in the Department which, as the committee will be aware, is a new unit established to drive the implementation of Healthy Ireland which was approved by Government in the early part of this year. Kate comes to us from the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, PSI. She is both a pharmacist and a journalist and she has responsibility for sexual health.


On behalf of the Department, I welcome the opportunity to be here today, in particular, to brief the committee on the development of the national sexual health strategy, which is the context in policy terms for our consideration of the issues this morning and which is currently being finalised.


The implementation of that strategy will be undertaken by the health and well-being division of the HSE, and Dr. Stephanie O'Keeffe and her team from the HSE will speak to that. They will be supported by the key stakeholders in the area. The strategy and its implementation are underpinned by the goals and principles of the Healthy Ireland framework which I have mentioned already.


This new strategy is the first time that a nationally co-ordinated approach has been developed to address sexual health and well-being and to reduce negative health outcomes, including in the specific area of HIV. The strategy's vision is that everyone in Ireland experiences positive sexual health and well-being, and has access to high quality sexual health information, education and services throughout the life course. The strategy takes a life course approach, which is consistent with the underpinning concept in the Healthy Ireland framework, and acknowledges the importance of developing healthy sexuality throughout childhood and adolescence and builds on that foundation for positive sexual health and well-being into adult hood and older age.


Sexual health is an important part of overall health. It means in the first place the absence of disease and infection but also covers well-being, the ability to control fertility and to have children and the ability to enjoy fulfilling relationships free from discrimination.


Worldwide, sexually transmitted infections, STIs, are among the most common causes of disease and are an increasing cause of ill health. Apart from the initial symptoms and discomfort, they may result in long-term health problems such as infertility, ectopic pregnancies and genital cancers. In Ireland, rising STI rates have increased the level of concern in this area among health professionals, the Government and the public, and are something we are certainly concerned about.


Sexual health infections prevention and treatment services include a broad range of health care at different levels, both public and private, throughout the health care system. The main elements include: prevention of sexually transmitted infections and clinical care for those with STIs; contraception; screening for diseases such as genital chlamydia; psychosexual counselling and support; and specialised services for high-risk groups and diseases.

HSE public STI screening services are almost exclusively based in hospitals and special community clinic settings around Ireland and they are free at the point of access. In places, some GP practices and family planning services may provide STI services for a fee……


[For the full debate, click on this link to the Oireachtas website]

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