Every year – usually around the middle of September – Sexual Health Week takes place and focuses attention on an important topic that’s affecting sexual health right now.
This year, Sexual Health Week is about removing some of the barriers people experience when accessing sexual health services.
Breaking down barriers ensures everyone who needs to can easily access services, giving them the power to make positive choices. That means everyone, regardless of sexuality, disability, wealth or race.
The week also hopes to help remove the stigma around accessing sexual health services.
So, let’s take a closer look at the barriers Sexual Health Week 2022 is looking to break…
Breaking cost barriers
Cost can be a barrier to making good sexual health choices and accessing sexual health services, especially with the current cost of living crisis.
The price of condoms, a regular prescription for contraception or emergency contraception such as the morning after pill, can all seem like costly choices when money is tight. Pregnancy tests too!
This means that some people just can’t access the sexual health support they need, especially through pharmacies and shops.
But, don’t worry, help is at hand!
For example, the eC-Card scheme – an app developed by Essex Sexual Health Service – gives 16-24-year-olds access to free condoms and lube. All they need to do is download the app, fill out a few simple details and collect their condoms from a discreet location.
By drawing attention to this and similar services, Sexual Health Week 2022 is helping break down cost as a barrier to good sexual health.
Breaking language barriers
Another issue people could face when they’re trying to access sexual health services is language.
For some people in the UK, English isn’t their first language. Whilst this may be easy to overcome much of the time, it could be a barrier when trying to access sexual health services. They may not be able to find the right words for their question or issue.
Again, there’s a solution!
Increasingly, health services – including sexual health – have multilingual staff who can communicate better with people of all nationalities and backgrounds.
There is also the option to use telephone and digital translation services when speaking to nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals.
Language shouldn’t be an issue for people accessing sexual health services – and Sexual Health Week 2022 is helping publicise services which break down this barrier.
Breaking barriers of stigma
There can be a stigma around accessing sexual health services.
Sometimes, you might feel embarrassed walking into a clinic or asking at your doctor’s surgery about help with contraception, a suspected STI or anything else to do with your sexual health.
You might be concerned you’ll be judged or that your friends and family could find out. This can be a barrier.
However, sexual health records are kept separate from other health records. They are entirely confidential and never shared without your permission. No one has to know what happens in a sexual health clinic, not even your parents.
STI testing kits and contraception are packaged discreetly, meaning no one has to know what you’re taking home on the bus.
Concerns around stigma and confidentiality can stop people – especially young people – getting the help they need to make empowered choices.
Again, Sexual Health Week 2022 is helping dispel the myths around sexual health services.
Breaking barriers of disability
Some people with disabilities may be concerned about challenges they could face when accessing sexual health services.
They may be worried about accessibility – especially if they are a wheelchair user or blind – or that the doctors and nurses may not understand their other challenges – such as mental health or different approaches to sex.
Sometimes, it could feel like much of the information and advice on websites and blogs is only applicable to able-bodied people.
This could lead to disabled people not feeling welcome or prioritised by sexual health services.
However, sexual health clinics are increasingly accessible. They are wheelchair-friendly and are familiar and understanding of a wide range of physical and mental challenges.
Many websites and blogs feature content specifically for a wide range of people, including those with disabilities.
Sexual Health Week 2022 is again focussing hard on breaking down these barriers!
Sexual Health Week 2022
Sexual Health Week 2022 will draw attention to and hopefully break down many of the barriers people perceive when accessing sexual health services.
The week aims to dispel myths and amplify seldom-heard voices.
Brook, the sexual health and wellbeing experts arranging the week, are presenting a Big RSE (Relationships and Sex Education) Lesson Live online, on the 14th September 2022 at 10am. They will be discussing how to deal with difficult topics, how to talk about them and where to go for help.
At 7.30pm on the same day, sex educator and artist Ruby Rare will be hosting a live panel event with special guests, focussing on the topic of Breaking Barriers.
At Essex Sexual Health Service, we will be supporting our partners throughout the sexual health community and helping break down barriers to good sexual health!