Lanarkshire: Should Syphilis Lead To “Sexplanations” in Catholic Schools?editor
A very concerned parent passed us a copy of a letter dated 11 November, 2013, which her daughter brought home from her Catholic school.
Read the text below, and click on the picture to visit the “Sexplanations” website.
Then tell us if you think there is ever any excuse to deliver the “safer sex” message to pupils in Catholic schools. Is an outbreak of syphilis a reason to bring in the “sexperts” or is there, categorically, never any excuse for a Catholic headteacher to permit the kind of “information” sessions being carried out in Lanarkshire schools – including Catholic schools.
TEXT OF LETTER GIVEN TO PUPILS TO DELIVER TO PARENTS, INCLUDING PUPILS IN CATHOLIC SCHOOLS…
Cases of Syphilis in Lanarkshire residents
During 2012 and 2013 there has been an increase in the number of cases of syphilis diagnosed in Lanarkshire compared to previous years. The increase has been most marked in young people under the age of 25.
A series of actions have been taken to increase awareness of the increased number of cases of syphilis, to promote prevention of infection and to encourage people to attend the sexual health service for testing. These have included press statements issued to local and national newspapers and other media outlets; the distribution of leaflets through community services and community groups; and promotion of information about the situation using the Lanarkshire sexual health website, Facebook and Twitter. Additional sexual health clinics have been provided to enable testing of people who have responded to the information provided.
What is syphilis?
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection. It can be passed on by direct sexual contact and cannot be passed on by casual social contact such as holding hands, hugging, kissing or sharing cutlery.
Why are we contacting parents/guardians of high school pupils about this?
We collect confidential information to allow us to identify characteristics, including age, of those diagnosed with syphilis and any other sexually transmitted infection. Some of the information shows there is syphilis infection present among young people who may be in senior school. It is important to appreciate that 50% of the young people diagnosed with syphilis did not display any symptoms of syphilis infection.
NHS Lanarkshire is taking action to increase understanding among young people of the importance of preventing infection and practising safer sex for those young people who have sex. It is particularly important for young people to attend a sexual health clinic if they have had at risk sex during the last two years.
One of the approaches being used, in addition to t hose listed above, is to provide an information session on syphilis to pupils in S4, S5 and S6 in each school in Lanarkshire.
The majority of young people in S4 to S6 are not sexually active and you may not feel this information is relevant to your child at present. However, NHS Lanarkshire has a responsibility to deliver accurate messages to populations affected by infections such as syphilis in order to reduce the risk of further infection, and to promote testing of people who may have been infected and who would benefit from treatment.
The information sessions will ensure that all young people in these year groups will be aware of: what syphilis is; the long term impact of syphilis infection; and how to get tested for sexually transmitted infection, which is important even if not experiencing symptoms. The session will also convey key messages around risk taking behaviour in regards to sexual health. The session will be short and any disruption to the school curriculum will be kept to a minimum. The information sessions are being organised by NHS Lanarkshire and will be delivered by health and education staff.
If you have any questions that are not answred by the enclosed information leaflet you may wish to visit the Lanarkshire sexual health website Alternatively, you may wish to use the NHS inform helpline by phoning 0800.22.44.88. This helpline is open from 8.00 am to 10pm 7 days a week.
We appreciate that this is a sensitive issue and hope you find this information helpful.
(Signed) Dr Anne McLellan, Lead Sexual Health Clinician, NHS Lanarkshire – and – Dr John Logan, Consultant i n Public Health Medicine, NHS Lanarkshire. END