I am always fascinated by the many aspects of health that could be bring about lively debate and voiced concern. We live in a changing world where what we did even last week is sometimes now considered obsolete. I quite enjoy the status of dinosaur within my family but not professionally. I need to continue to be aware of trends and latest research in aspects of work with children and young people. The word ‘health’ conjures up different images. We could discuss HIV/AIDS as a global disaster yet we hardly consider the impact of sexually transmitted infection on people living in our own part of the world.
Information From the World Health Organisation
Number of people living with HIV in 2007Total 33.2 million [30.6-36.1 million]
Adults 30.8 million [28.2-33.6 million]
Women 15.4 million [13.9-16.6 million]
Children under 15 years 2.5 million [2.2-2.6 million]
People newly infected with HIV in 2007
Total 2.5 million [1.8-4.1 million]
Adults 2.1 million [1.4-3.6 million]
Children under 15 years 420 000 [350 000-540 000]
AIDS deaths in 2007
Total 2.1 million [1.9-2.4 million]
Adults 1.7 million [1.6-2.1 million]
Children under 15 years 330 000 [310 000-380 000]
Sexually Transmitted Infections
The Health Protection Agency www.hpa.org.uk provides figures for 2007 which indicate that upwards of 2 million newly diagnosed cases of serious sexually transmitted infections in the UK, some of which can increase the risk of infertility or even hasten death. Imagine how many more undiagnosed cases there must be.
During the past few years, instead of a decrease in the incidence of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), there has been little or no change despite more publicity and fewer barriers to open discussion in the media.
Do we think we are immune because we don’t live in a hot or undeveloped country?
Do we consider that it won’t happen to us because somehow we are immune?
Do we just not care?
Successive governments have attempted various strategies to inform children and young people of the importance of and the hidden pitfalls to sexual activity. Schools provide very well thought out, and in the main well delivered, information about risk and unwanted teenage pregnancy.
There is very little if any mention of the hard facts: sex is dirty. There is the possibility that some of us will suffer from infections due to the warm, moist areas of the body parts involved. If we do not follow strict hygiene routines and if we do not wear protective condoms especially if we have casual sex, then we are in direct danger of acquiring a ‘friend for life’ whether it is chlamydia, herpes or HIV/AIDS or one of the other little infections that are reluctant to leave our bodies but are only too willing to move on and visit other bodies.
STIs are commonplace and, I suspect, this then makes them appear non-threatening, but they can lead to health and other complications. Untreated symptoms are scary. Pregnancy is not the worst thing that can happen.
Children need to have this information available to them as they begin to ask questions. I am not advocating frightening small children who are not mature enough to understand or the imposition of a lot of factual information for which they are not ready. I am suggesting that as sexual behaviour is the thing that brought about the child, then the information associated with procreation and, hopefully, intimate pleasure should be drip-fed to the child, so that, by the time they reach adulthood, they cannot remember when they did not know and it becomes just an aspect of life instead of a big deal.
Giving Priority to Parenting
We are the nation with the most miserable children. What are we not doing that we should? How can we turn this around? Mental or emotional health is still not high enough on the agenda. Happiness cannot be bought or manufactured. It comes from within. A child born into a stable, loving environment is more likely to feel happy and content than the poor scrap, possibly unwanted, who was born into a family with few boundaries, weak loyalties and inconsistent rules.
I have written about the importance of parenting from many different perspectives, always keeping the child as my main focus. I do not believe it is hopeless, but I firmly believe that this system we have adopted of assuming all parents wish to work instead of raising their children must stop.
A couple of months ago, I wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister asking that he re-consider offering free childcare to parents, and offer to pay mother or father a good living wage to stay at home and do their job – raise their family to be happy, law abiding individuals with a motivation to achieve and a keen understanding of their importance in the world. Go on Gordon, give it a go.