Labour MP Diane Abbott: ‘The government has run out of ideas on sexual health’

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Shadow public health minister Diane Abbott has dismissed the government’s new sexual health framework which is designed to lower rates of sexually transmitted infections and HIV.

Unveiled on Friday, the Department of Health document outlines the need for “greater efforts to prevent STIs and HIV” and for “an increase in the number of people in high-risk groups being tested for HIV.”

Terrence Higgins Trust welcomed the framework but warned it came just days after a cut of around £1.2 million to the Pan-London HIV Prevention Programme.

Shadow public health minister Diane Abbott said the document had been delayed by 22 months. “This document has come out just weeks before most sexual health commissioning transfers to local authorities” she said. “This is an insult to the public, healthcare workers and to local authorities who are on the frontline. The unacceptable delay has created chaos, bringing work to a standstill, and yet this document has no new answers. It’s families, local authorities and healthcare workers paying the cost of this government’s incompetence.”

The Labour MP continued: “It’s clear the government has run out of ideas. This weak leadership throws Britain’s sexual health services up in the air, creating a postcode lottery, with local authorities having to find their own way, relying on trial and error. The government has weakened and loosened the progress Labour made on teenage pregnancy, Chlamydia screening, and improving access to services.”

She added: “It’s deeply concerning that the government has turned its back on Sex and Relationships Education. It’s clear there is no real plan for it, no new ideas and no interest in it. We need a sex education revolution in ordinary schools. We should have the statutory sex and relationship education in schools that the Tories shamefully blocked before the election.”

Earlier, Public Health Minister Anna Soubry admitted that sexual health in England needed to be improved, but said the government’s reforms were a vital way of achieving this.

“We need a concerted effort from everyone, but especially local councils who will start commissioning services from 1 April,” the Conservative MP said. “With the launch of Public Health England, there is a real opportunity for local councils to make renewed efforts to improve the sexual health of their communities.”

Last December, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) reported that a record number of gay and bisexual men were diagnosed with HIV in 2011.