Contraception and Sexual Health

Why is it an issue?

Sexual ill health presents a significant cost to the public purse as well as to the individual.  Consequences range from brief episodes of discomfort and embarrassment to serious long-term disability and illness, infertility and in some cases death.  Sexual ill health and unintended teenage pregnancies are strongly linked with deprivation and health inequality.

What is the position in Devon?

Whilst diagnosis rates for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, herpes and warts is lower than both regional and national rates, variation in rates can however be seen across Devon with the highest rates of all sexually transmitted diseases seen in Exeter and Barnstaple. The highest teenage conception rates are seen in parts of Exeter. Rates in Teignbridge have been increasing year on year, and the latest data (2009) puts the rate just above the national average.

“There is a strong correlation between sexual health & unintended pregnancy and deprivation/health inequality.”

What is the evidence of effective interventions?

The Sexual Health Needs Assessment for Devon provided the evidence base for accessible integrated sexual health services in Devon.  The strongest evidence of impact on teenage conception rates is for comprehensive information, advice and support from parents, schools and other professionals and access to young people friendly contraception and sexual health services.  Priority groups for sexual health services include men who have sex with men, people who have visited areas of high HIV prevalence, vulnerable young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are in or leaving care or who have low educational attainment.  Risky behaviour is associated with misuse of alcohol or substances, early onset of sexual activity and unprotected sex and frequent change/multiple partners. There is a need for further evidence of how well services are meeting the needs of users. The sexual health needs assessments identify priorities for action.