The Department of Health has free safer sex packs available to interested parties for distribution from February 12-14. *iStock photo
The Department of Health has free safer sex packs available to interested parties for distribution from February 12-14. *iStock photo

On Wednesday, February 12th the Department of Health is observing its fourth annual Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Day. As such, the Department of Health is encouraging everyone to “Have the Conversation” about sexual health.

“Sexual health matters to all of us, whether we talk about it openly or not,” said a Department of Health spokesperson. “Sexual and reproductive health is a core aspect of our identity and an important part of health and wellbeing throughout the life cycle.

“Indeed, although sexual health is about a lot more than safer sex, preventing infection and unwanted pregnancy, it is important to recognize that persons as young as 14 and as old as 85 have been reported to the Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit having been diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections.”

In 2013, over 450 STIs were reported to the Unit, including 322 cases of chlamydia, 70 cases of herpes, 40 cases of gonorrhoea, 11 cases of syphilis and 7 cases of HIV. Also of note is that although 60% of all STI’s were diagnosed in persons under 30, almost 60% of persons living with HIV are over the age of 50.  

Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Day is therefore an annual health promotion event which focuses on the importance of sexual health issues.

The objectives of the observance are:

• Improving the acceptability of safer sex behavior;

• Decreasing the prevalence of STIs within the community;

• Providing sexual health information, education and resources ; and

• Improving health seeking behaviour to increase testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

“The goal of having an awareness week is to encourage people in Bermuda to consider the importance of maintaining reproductive health and talking about healthy decision-making with the people they care about,” said the spokesperson. “It is also an opportunity to promote the services and support available in Bermuda for sexual and reproductive health issues. The related services provided by the Department of Health include the Communicable Disease Control Clinic and the Maternal Health and Family Planning Clinic, both located at Hamilton Health Centre, 67 Victoria Street, Hamilton.

“Regular screening for sexual and reproductive health is important. This includes screening for STIs, including HIV, and screenings for breast, cervical and prostate cancers. The screening tests one should have depend on age, gender, family history and whether there are other risk factors for certain diseases. Screening tests may help find diseases or conditions early when they are easier to treat. It is also important that each of us is aware of our own bodies so if changes occur that don’t seem normal they can be checked by a health-care provider.

“Sexual health is about open communication, confidence in making informed choices, acceptance of our differences and a healthy understanding of sexuality and relationships. The Department of Health uses the opportunity of Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Day to continue its campaign of “Have the Conversation” which encourages persons to talk about sexual health with their partners, relatives, and healthcare providers. The Department of Health advises use of “The Five P’s of Sexual Health” to guide the conversation. This includes discussion about Partners, Practices, Prevention of pregnancy, Past history of sexually transmitted infections and Prevention of sexually transmitted infection. 

Additionally, the Department of Health has free safer sex packs available to interested parties for distribution from February 12th-14th, 2014. Please email healthpromotion@gov.bm to place an order (limited quantities available). These packs will also be available at the Communicable Disease Control Clinic at the Hamilton Health Centre and participating retailers for FREE (Demco Florist and Passions, Eve's Garden, Secrets, and Exotic Creations).