Working as a sex and relationship educator means I am always learning new things.
I was reading this article on the BBC website looking at several new outbreaks of syphilis among heterosexual teenagers in the UK. For me this is an especially worrying development because this is not the only STI that is getting ready for a come back. It has also been recorded that gonorrhea is becoming resistant to antibiotics. HIV also seems poised for a resurgence in the EU. If STIs continue to develop and return bigger and badder then before the role of sexual health workers could become more vital then ever.
In my work we focus on both the emotional, social and physical aspects of both sex and relationships. It is a key unique theme of our work to help young people deal with the emotional side, an element that some providers skip to target the biological risks. Whilst I feel this is damaging in the long term I can see the point in responding to the biological risk under increasing pressure of these growing threats. With a robust early intervention programme we could equip a generation to deal with these emerging threats. Such a programme could save lives and save thousands of pounds in treatment. Yet no UK government would pay out the money for such a useful early intervention process even in the face of such obvious threats. Sadly this leads on to a sad truth for those working in sexual health prevention. We may never get the funding we deserve from the government.
The BBC article does make it clear that in regards to syphilis we are still talking about relatively small numbers. The worry is of course that these small numbers are warning signs of a larger problem that is yet to develop. In the work we currently do in Chester schools we have constantly continued to provide education about syphilis because although it is rare it is not extinct and if learning about syphilis also backs up teh prevention we are encouraging for Chlamydia and other STIs why would we leave it out. We have found that the mention of syphilis within the school setting can sometimes help embed the information because of links students make with History about kings and noble men/women suffering from it.
In Chester we will continue providing education on a variety of STIs avoiding teh temptation to streamline and focus on only one or two most common. Why? because we never know which STI is going to bounce back bigger and badder then before.