The 17th annual Regional Sexual Health Conference held last week attracted delegates from across Northern Ireland. Funded by the Public Health Agency (PHA) and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, this conference will help to improve Children and Young People’s Sexual Health.
The PHA is aware that underage sexual activity is a concern in Northern Ireland. Although fewer of our young people report having had sexual intercourse compared to the rest of UK (1), a recent school based survey of 11-16 year olds found eight percent of pupils have had sexual intercourse and of these eight percent, 4 out of 5 had sexual intercourse for the first time between the ages of 13 and 15. (2)
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) also need to be tackled. Between 2000 and 2009 the highest rates of uncomplicated Chlamydia infection were found in females in the 16-24 year age group. This group also had the highest diagnostic rate for genital herpes in the same period. (3)
Reducing the number of unplanned teenage pregnancies is also important as births to those under 17 years of age have remained fairly constant from 2005, at around 145 per year. (4) More generally, the number of births to teenage mothers (less than 20 years of age) has dropped over the last ten years; however, the rate of births to teenage mothers living in the 20% most deprived areas is twice as high as the Northern Ireland average. (5)
Speaking before her opening address, Dr Carolyn Harper, Executive Medical Director, PHA said: “The Public Health Agency was set up, in part, to tackle health inequalities and to promote positive health and wellbeing for all our population, including children and young people. This conference will consider the PHA action plan to promote better sexual health for young people. It has been developed through working with partners to identify evidence-based priorities such as teenage pregnancy and the prevention of HIV and STIs.
“We are particularly concerned about children and young people. For those who live within the care system, for example, whether in children’s homes or through foster care, we are developing programmes to enable staff to promote safe and healthy personal development. The young people themselves will be involved in all aspects of this work. We also work in partnership with the education sector to provide support and training for teachers and schools for the delivery of Relationship and Sexual Education (RSE) in schools.”
This year the conference included presentations and workshops from local experts in public, child and sexual health, contributions from academia and speakers from GB and ROI. A range of subjects were considered including:
- Sex Education:Childrens Rights
- Sex and Violence and sexual grooming of young people
- Building Resilience in Young People
- Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Young People
- Engaging with hard to reach young people
- Midwifery Care of HIV Mother
- Learning Disability and Young people
- Supporting parents
- Young women and sexual health – NI and integrated services for STIs
- Children and HIV
- Young People and sex/gender practices
This annual conference has become Northern Ireland’s key sexual health event, attracting presenters and delegates from medicine, law, social work, nursing, education, youth and community and health and social care. Delegates represent the statutory, voluntary and community sectors throughout the UK, Ireland, and other European countries.
For further information on Children and Young People’s Sexual Health contact: Joanna Gregg or Joe Harris, Sexual Health Co-ordinators, Sexual Health Team
Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, Tel: (028) 9090 0051.
- Further information on sexual health and STIs can be found in the ‘Health Protection’ Directorate, on the PHA website, www.publichealth.hscni.net 
- For further information on Children and Young People’s Sexual Health contact: Joanna Gregg or Joe Harris, Sexual Health Co-ordinators, Sexual Health Team
Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, Tel: (028) 9090 0051
Notes to the editor
Speakers and organisers, pictured at last week’s 17th annual Regional Sexual Health Conference, included (fourth left) Dr Carolyn Harper, Executive Medical Director, Public Health Agency (PHA), who gave the opening address at what has become Northern Ireland’s key sexual health event. The conference, organised by the PHA and Belfast Health and Social Care Trust focused on the theme of children and young people, this year.
- The Regional Sexual Health Improvement Network is made up of Department of Health Social Services ad Public Safety, Department of Education, Health and Social Care Board, Health and Social Care Trusts, Local Commissioning Group, Patient and Client Council, Voluntary Organisations and Public Health Agency.
- The number of births (live and still) to teenage mothers (under 20 years) in Northern Ireland has dropped over the last ten years with 1,265 births in 2010 compared to 1,334 in 2009 and 1,426 in 2008 (4)
- The rate of births to teenage mothers (under 20 years) living in the 20% most deprived areas is twice as high as the Northern Ireland average (15.7 per 1000 females compared to 30.2 per 1000 females) (5)
- A Looked After Children subgroup (of the Sexual Health Improvement Network) is developing policy and guidance to enable staff to promote safe and healthy personal development of young people who are looked after, with the involvement of looked after young people. This will be completed by the end of March 2012
1 PHA analysis of Health Behaviour School Children 2006/ Young Persons’ Behaviour and Attitudes Survey 2007. Unpublished.
2 Young Persons’ Behaviour and Attitudes Survey Bulletin. Belfast: Central Survey Unit, 2011.
3 HIV and STI surveillance in Northern Ireland 2010. An analysis of data for the calendar year 2009. Belfast: Public Health Agency, 2010.
Available at www.publichealth.hscni.net/sites/default/files/HIV%20and%20STI%20report%20final%20SMK_0.pdf 
4 Registrar General Annual Report. Section 3 births – table 3.10.
5 NI Health & Social Care Inequality Monitoring System (HSCIMS). Project Support Analysis Branch, DHSSPS, November 2011.