Malta’s sexual health clinic employs just five full-time staff members. This comes at a time rife with concerns over the lack of resources at the GU Clinic and the growing number of sexually transmitted diseases yet to be placed firmly on the public health agenda.
At present, the GU Clinic is manned by three nurses, one GP with special expertise in women’s sexual health, and one consultant dermatovenerologist. A Higher Specialist Trainee has just returned from training in the UK, while a second HST will remain abroad for another year.
The Ministry for Health provided the figures, however, they failed to divulge what sort of budget and resources are being provided for the department, how this has changed over the years, and whether there are plans to address the issue.
It should be noted that the GU Clinic staff themselves perform an impressive job given the lack of resources, managing to fit in on average 23 different patients every day… which is four patients every hour.
Sources within the hospital have even described the clinic as an excellent department that has too long been ignored by successive administrations, despite growing health risks and sexual activity.
The government, a ministry spokesperson told Lovin Malta, is “in the process of developing a new strategy” to the one was introduced in 2011, back when Lawrence Gonzi was leading the country. However, no exact timeframe for its implementation was given.
As it stands, the remit for the new strategy is at best vague, with the ministry explaining that it will be based on a positive approach to sexuality that is “based on respect, gender equality, sexual expression, respect, and the freedom from violence and discrimination”.
The ministry did reveal that a specific strategy on HIV will be launched for public consultation later this year, and will focus on targeted actions for prevention, diagnosis, and early care and treatment.
The focused strategy, while undoubtedly laudable, still does not address the rising numbers of sexually transmitted diseases in Malta, with the rise in syphilis cases being of particular concern.
The 2011 strategy, at least, does seem to generate some success, with the number of patients visiting the clinic increasing dramatically from 2,632 in 2009 to 5,684 in 2018. However, the number of consultations does remain worryingly low when compared to the level of sexual activity in Malta.
The most recent official survey on sexual health in Malta (2012) found that more than 75% of responders had sex at least once in their lifetime, yet the majority of respondents who had multiple partners used no form contraception.
The figures are admittedly outdated, highlighting the need for a more forward-thinking and readily available database of information that is truly reflective of today’s multi-faceted society.