Cornwall Council supporting World Aids Day

For those who did not know, but today is World Aids Day. Therefore, Cornwall Council is joining other authorities across all of the South West to raise a flag to mark this occasion. The joint flying of the flags is in support of a bid to make stigma history for HIV.

For my generation we were bombarded with the ‘Don’t die of ignorance’ films, which were shown on national tv. However, over the year’s, HIV and Aids has been lost its prominence, and is seen as one of those illnesses that has a cure for it. Yet Aids and HIV has not gone away.

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Me and the Vice-Chairman of Cornwall Council

There are more than 100,000 people estimated to be living with HIV in the UK though 17% are unaware they have the infection. This is important as individuals unaware they have HIV are unable to get the treatment they need to keep them well, they may also pass the virus on unknowingly. Testing for HIV and STI’s is easy. For HIV it is a simple blood test.

HIV affects people of all ages, including older adults. Effective treatments now mean that life expectancy has significantly increased for people with HIV. The majority of people with HIV who are accessing care are on treatment (96%), and 94% taking treatment have suppressed the virus meaning they are highly unlikely to pass it on. However, wearing a condom is still the safest way to stay safe.

The number of people living with HIV is increasing in the UK. This is as more people continue to be diagnosed and people are living longer as a result of treatment. In 2015, 88,769 people were living with diagnosed HIV and had accessed care (61,097 men and 27,672 women). This represents a 73% rise in the last decade and an increase of 4% over the preceding year. Most people newly diagnosed with HIV were aged between 25 and 49 years in 2015. In Cornwall the age range of people diagnosed with HIV was 28-85 years.img_1659

Late HIV diagnosis is an important issue in Cornwall with 47% of the Cornish residents diagnosed with HIV in 2013-2015, diagnosed at a late stage of infection. Late diagnosis is when an individual’s immune system has already been severely damaged meaning they can become seriously ill.

Heterosexual men and women:

  • 39% new diagnoses in the UK were among heterosexual men and women in 2015;
  • The number of heterosexuals who acquired HIV in the UK remains high and is higher than infections acquired abroad;
  • The number of women/girls newly diagnosed with HIV in the UK has decreased in the last decade from 2,940 to 1,537 in 2015;
  • Among heterosexuals aged 15-44 in the UK, almost one in every 1,000 is estimated to be living with HIV with higher prevalence’s among black African heterosexual men (one in 56) and women (one in 22);
  • Throughout the decade the two largest groups of people who accessed HIV care remained white MSM and black African heterosexuals. There has also been an increase in white heterosexuals (which has almost doubled from 5,302 in 2006 to 10,417 in 2015).

Men who have sex with men:

  • While the vast majority of MSM do not have HIV, gay, bisexual men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to be the group most affected by HIV infection’
  • Among MSM aged 15-44, one in 20 is estimated to be living with HIV;
  • Just over half of people diagnosed with HIV in 2015 were MSM (54%).

For Cornwall the stats are:

  • 66 people in every 1000 are accessing care for HIV in Cornwall (compared to 2.26 in every 1000 in England).
  • The HIV prevalence rate is much lower than that of England as a whole.
  • The number of people living in Cornwall with HIV has increased by 24% since 2010 (148).
  • HIV incidence (the number newly diagnosed) is very low in Cornwall at 2.4 per 100,000 compared to the England average at 12.1.
  • It’s important to remember that an estimated 17% remain undiagnosed nationally so the true number of people living with HIV in Cornwall is likely to be higher.
    • Men who have sex with men: 14% of MSM living with HIV are undiagnosed.
    • Black African heterosexuals: 16% in men and 12% in women.
    • All heterosexuals: 21% unaware of their diagnosis (1 in 5) PLHIV unaware of their status, rising to 24% outside of London.
  • Late diagnosis continues to be an issue in Cornwall at 47% (2013-2015) it is higher than the England rate at 39% but has decreased since 2010-2012 (68.4%).

How to get a HIV test? Go to an open-access sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinic like the sexual health hub at Treliske or one of the community sexual health clinics. Ask your GP for a HIV test – nowadays there is no need for a lengthy discussion about the test, it just involves having blood taken. Ask online for a self-sampling kit (www.freetesting.hiv.) that can be sent to you at home.

It was good to see others support World Aids Day at the Council:

 

We are asking for parent’s difficult to answer questions about sex!

Cornwall Council via its Public Health Team is asking parents and carers to send in those difficult questions they worry their children will ask about relationships, sex and growing up.

The Sexual Health and Teenage Pregnancy Team have made an online resource for parents that will help them to answer the questions you may struggle with answering. Rather than saying “go and ask your mum”, or “that’s one for your dad to answer”, or even “Google it”, the team want to help you talk about relationships, sex and growing up in an age appropriate way.

Evidence shows that children and young people who have on-going and open conversations at home with their parents about relationships and sexual health initiate sex at an older age, have less sex during their teenage years and use condoms more consistently than their peers. It is very hard to control the flow of information into our children’s lives…. We need to make sure they are getting the right information from us.

Young people tell us time and again, they want to talk to reliable adults about relationship, sexual health and growing up. This is why we want to support parents to be positive and confident sources of relationships and sex education for their children.

A short video has been produced for social media – showing some examples of difficult questions, and encouraging parents to submit their own using an anonymous form. The more questions the team receive the better the resource they will be able to create.

Film below (please have the sound on):

Difficult questions from Cornwall Council on Vimeo.

 

For me, I am fully supportive issues like this are being highlighted. It is really important that we speak honestly to our children about relationships and sexual health in an age appropriate way whenever they ask. Fobbing them off or dodging the questions will only create more difficult issues to deal with as they get older. I know I have had those difficult questions asked, and have after the initial shock, have sat down with my son and talked about it.

Furthermore, we have reduced our teenage pregnancy rate in Cornwall by more than half since the national reduction strategy began, and we want to ensure that we continue a downward trend.

As parents we can often be caught off guard by our children’s inquisitive nature.  But, if we get this right from a young age, by encouraging our children to come to us as a reliable source of information we are establishing great building blocks for their future. If parents do not answer their children’s questions they may turn to a far less reliable source.

Talking about sex does not encourage young people to have it either! Not talking about sex means young people have to find things out from sometimes far less desirable sources. It is very hard to control the flow of information into our children’s lives…. We need to make sure they are getting the right information from us.

Young people tell us time and again, they want to talk to reliable adults about relationship, sexual health and growing up

Parents can submit the difficult to answer questions they’ve been asked, or are worried they might be asked, online at www.cornwall.gov.uk/teenagepregnancy

Studies have found:

  • Young people who talk to their parents were more likely to wait longer before having sex.
  • Young people who had recently had a ‘good talk’ with a parent about sexual health were twice more likely to use condoms than those who hadn’t.
  • People who have conversations with parents about sexual health are more likely to use contraception every time they have sex.
  • People who said school and parents were their two main sources of information about sex are less likely to have unsafe sex and less likely to be diagnosed with an STI.

Whilst most parents and carers want to be a good source of relationship and sex education, many admit that they are not talking to their children. This can be for many reasons such as embarrassment or simply not knowing what to say. Likewise young people say they want to have these very important conversations with their parents and carers but often don’t know how to initiate them and so look for information from less reliable sources such as the internet or friends.

We want to support parents so they not only have the knowledge and confidence to answer those difficult questions but to raise the subjects in the first place. Supporting parents to be positive sources of relationship and sexual health is vital to supporting children and young people to develop into healthy, happy individuals.

If Young People are able to have difficult conversations at home with their parents, it enables them to build the skills they need to have good communication with their partners about relationship and sexual health in later life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cornwall’s Teenage Conception Rates Drop – Again

Today the ONS released the annual conception data for 2013, this data includes under 18 and under 16 conception data. It is good news for Cornwall. I know this may seem ‘old’ data but this is the latest data available.

For Cornwall, the conception rate for under 18’s was 21.3 per 1000 women, down from 26.1 per 1000 women in 2012. The great news is this was a decrease of 17.8% in the number of conceptions from 242 to 199 in a twelve month period and a 41.6% decrease since the baseline was set in 1998. Furthermore, the conception rate for under 16’s was 3.9 per 1000 women, a decrease of 15% in the last 12 months from 4.6 in 2012. This means the  data for 2013 has seen the largest percentage decrease in one year for Cornwall since 1998. It is important to continue this momentum or we could see ourselves having increase of teenage conception rates.

Teenage Conception Rates 1998 till 2012

Teenage Conception Rates 1998 till 2012

The reason Cornwall has been successful in reducing the number of teenage pregnancies is down to contraception and condoms though the improved access and support to getting condoms though the C-Card Scheme. Education which provides accurate, high-quality and timely information that helps people to make informed decisions about relationships, sex and sexual health. Early intervention supporting is another key factor as is supporting young people to reducing teenage conceptions. There are many exciting pieces of work being delivered and planned in reducing teenage pregnancy and supporting young parents, and as our environment changes.

Cornwall’s rate is edging closer to the average rate for the Southwest region 21.2/1000 for 2013 and 24.8/1000 for 2012 and has increased the gap in a positive way between Cornwall and the National Average. The National Average currently stands a 24.5/1000 for 2013 and 27.9/1000 for 2012. Cornwall has also exceeded both in terms of achieved percentage change since the 1998 baseline.

It is important to note that data can fluctuate but we can feel positive about this downward trend, so we must still do all we can to reduce the rates. The full data can be accessed here ONS Conception Statistics, England and Wales – 2013. http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/conception-statistics–england-and-wales/index.html

 

Kernow King’s Sex Tape a finalist in the UK Sexual Health Awards

A film produced by Health Promotion Service at Cornwall Council and starring Cornish comedian, Kernow King has been shortlisted for a national award at the UK Sexual Health Awards. The award in which the film has been shortlisted for is the Pamela Sheridan Award, which recognises pioneering approaches to relationships, sex and wellbeing education. The film was short listed because the awards panel liked the innovative approach to exploring issues with young people and use of humour to make the resource more accessible.

I am really proud of the work by the team behind the film, Matt and Emma, the star, Kernow King and all those who gave up their time to produce this outstanding educational film. It is excellent that the Kernow King’s sex tape and resource has been shortlisted against tough competition. I believe the resource is so strong because of the involvement of Cornwall’s young people, strong partnership, commitment and drive from Health Promotion Service, Cornwall College and Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust Sexual Health Hub, of course, the involvement of the Kernow King himself. Relationships and Sex Education is incredibly important and this resource is another step in ensuring young people are getting the information they need to stay safe and healthy, in a fun, innovative and engaging way.

The reason behind the film is young people are disproportionately affected by poor sexual health. In Cornwall 16-24 year olds account for 67% of chlamydia diagnosis. This film helps to show getting tested is not the horror story that often does the rounds, but shows why if in doubt, you should get tested and take more precautions. Furthermore, young people aged 16-24 are more likely to sexually active than their younger teenage peers, therefore increasing their risk of sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies. A gap emerged within Relationship, Sex Education (RSE) for this age group with the majority of provision delivered within schools and few available resources to be used in a Further Education environment and was another reason for the commissioning of the Kernow King film.

The Launch of Kernow King’s Sex Education Video

The Launch of Kernow King’s Sex Education Video

So how did this film come into being? it all started with four young people’s focus groups were held and involved; Young Mums Will Achieve, Brook Young Fathers Project and two groups of NEET young people. As a result of young people’s feedback more traditional teaching methods, such as lectures were discounted. It was clear that a peer led, fun, interactive resource needed to be developed. With this in mind story boards were created starring the ‘Kernow King’, local celebrity and comedian, and Cornwall College students. It was decided that the story would be retrospective of ‘Kernow Kings’ College years and would be filmed at the local Cornwall College campus. It would involve college students acting with him and his ‘love interest’ that was of similar age to him.

The film centres around Kernow King asking the audience (young people) what they would do in certain scenarios. In the film Kernow King also makes sweeping statements to prompt group discussion. It is not all about the film, as there is also resource material to support the video was also developed to help and guide lecturers and other professionals working with young people.

The video and resource of Kernow King’s Sex Education Video was launched in Cornwall on July 2014, at Cornwall College Camborne. The launch involved all the students that were part of the focus groups and students that acted in the video, were involved in its development and production. I was very proud to be part of the celebration and helping to raise the case for better RSE for our young people!

For more information on the Health Promotion Service:www.healthpromcornwall.org and SHAC www.cornwallshac.org.uk

 

The Launch of Kernow King’s Sex Education Video

As I said in my earlier blog this morning, today was the launch of Cornwall’s sexual health video. This took place at the Union Building at the Cornwall College Camborne campus. Those gathered included students, professionals from the various organisations involved with the project, and some media (thanks Heart FM for turning up, and Pirate FM and BBC Radio Cornwall for running the story).

 Those gathered were shown the full 20 minute film, and handed the educational material that goes with this film. It is important to say this is a two-part programme with the film and then the training material for the actual discussion with the young people.

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The training material that goes with the film

I would say this, but the launch of the film was a great success with laughter coming from the assembled crowd.  More importantly, the message the film was trying to deliver came through in a clear, informative, and in a humorous way. Everyone gathered loved the film, especially the students who this filmed is aimed at. The film does not try to lecture; it plays out a scenario that most young people could face. And as the scenario plays out, the film gives clear information on what a young person can do if they are at all worried about sexual health.

Those involved with the making of the film, and those who are supporting this film, should be very proud of the joint working and excellent educational material that has been produced. I am looking forward to seeing more groundbreaking ways of delivering information on RSE in Cornwall.

Lastly (I am always willing to laugh at myself  which is why I am including this in the blog) I made a comment on taking one of the ‘lollipops’ for ‘the Boy’. These lollipops were scattered on the table amongst pens, information material and small sweets. However, the lollipops turned out to be condoms-on-a-stick. It might have been ok if I said this comment to myself, but I said it in front of everyone, including Kernow King. Who then went on to tweet it with the picture below with much merriment from those gathered. For information ‘the Boy’ is my son and he’s 11.

Kernow King (@Kernow_King)
25/06/2014 16:59Premier of the kk sex tape made by @themotionfarm Highlight was @CllrAWallis picking up a “lollipop” for his son! pic.twitter.com/wH3VWjPswg
Me and the 'lollypop'

Me and the ‘lollipop’