In order to give Malta’s sexual health crisis the importance it needs, Malta’s Medical Student Association thinks government officials need to talk about it more.
“When people in power talk about sexual health it makes such an impact.”
“As an organisation, we do whatever we can to advocate for better sexual health. We host a lot of events throughout the year. But when government officials speak, more people listen,” Sexual and Reproductive Health Official from MMSA Michaela Zammit stressed on Lovin Daily.
Zammit heads the MMSA’s Standing Committee on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights including HIV and aids (SCORA).
It aims to instigate change through public campaigns on sexual education and dismantle prejudges on issues like sexuality, STIs, gender-based violence and maternal health.
Sexual health is a major issue in Malta, with essential drugs like contraceptives facing major shortages. Zammit thinks that the first step in tackling it is to recognise that it is essential for many women.
“The problem with the contraceptive pill is that it’s widely unavailable beyond Malta and lots of women depend on it. But we can’t just snap our fingers and expect sufficient shipping.”
“But the best thing the state could do is add it to the government’s essential formulae list,” she said.
Zammit also believes students play an instrumental role in pressuring those in power to address this.
“It’s an issue that we’ve spoken out about and will continue to do so,” she continued.
Abortion is also a stinging point. It’s a highly divisive and taboo issue in Malta, and the MMSA chooses to represent both sides.
“With regard to abortion, we like to remain impartial on it since we represent so many people, around 800 medical students.”
“We’ve created a debate among our students to let them ask both sides any questions and make up their own minds,” the medical student said, adding that the MMSA already organised two events with pro-choice and pro-life groups.
Despite the imminent issues, young people seem to be more open about all things sexual health.
“Young people are more open about their sexual health and sexuality. Change comes with time – it’s a slow race but we’re getting there. More youths are open about having that conversation, getting tested for STDS and talking about their sexuality,” she added.
Even secondary school students are more liberal when talking about sex.
“When we go give talks at schools, they’re asking questions, they want to know. ‘How do I have sex safely? What do I do? What should I look out for?’”
“The mentality is no longer solely abstinence – it’s accepting that being sexually active is ok, and wanting to know how to protect yourself,” Zammit remarked.
Malta’s Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne has gone silent on Malta’s contraceptive crisis, seemingly failing to provide tangible solutions to the problem.
However, the sexual health crisis extends far beyond contraceptives, which can be inaccessible to those who can’t afford it.
Malta’s contraceptive crisis seems at odds with the country’s blanket ban on abortion. This could all be addressed in a fresh sexual health policy, which Health Minister Chris Fearne said will see a first draft come March 2021.
However, we don’t need to wait until then to address the contraceptive issue. The state needs to add it to its essential medicine list, which would ensure patients are aware of any shortages and ensure the government keeps up supply and keeps it free.
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