Malta’s decade-old sexual health strategy won’t be given the overhaul citizens were promised, Lovin Malta can confirm.
In September, Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne affirmed that the islands’ first and only sexual health policy, which was published under a different government 11 years ago, would be updated by March.
Lovin Malta requested an FOI of the minutes of the relevant health committee in charge of drafting the sexual health policy but was denied because no such meetings were held.
Understandably, health resources have been majorly focused on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, but sexual health has been a sore, neglected area in Malta before the first case of the virus was discovered in Wuhan, China.
Our sexual health clinic at Mater Dei is still severely understaffed and poorly resourced, with just a handful of people working in the clinic for a population of half a million, despite another pledge from Fearne to double its headcount by last September.
We don’t record the daily rate of preventable sexually transmitted diseases like we do COVID-19 infections, but they are steeply rising.
In fact, five people contracted HIV every month last year and 800 people were found to have HPV in 2019.
And with just 2% of people getting tested for STDs every year, this figure hardly scratches the surface of the true reality of the issue.
Meanwhile, contraceptive pills, which can also be used to treat acne, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis suffer constant shortages, which was only exacerbated by disruptions of COVID-19 and Brexit.
And even if you can find stock, some pharmacists refuse to sell it.
All these issues, including the establishment of a GU clinic for Gozo, and straightening the islands’ bare bone sexual education curriculum, must be addressed when health committees reconvene to draw up Malta’s new national health strategy.
In the meantime, we can keep pressure high so that sexual health is never left on the back burner again.
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