Malta’s sexual health policy was “outdated the day it came out”, according to the head of the GU Clinic, who believes it is crucial to scrutinise why the system is failing adolescents.
“The policy was an exercise in nice words but very little substance,” Dr Philip Carabot said when it was pointed out that schools in Europe were addressing new phenomenon such as nude selfies, porn and sexting.
“It’s useless addressing these matters when we haven’t started tackling the basic issues of sex education in schools and health promotion, despite teachers’ best intentions,” he added.
The policy, which took 10 years to see the light of day, was released in 2010, followed by a strategy a year later, and the publication of the first nationwide sexual health survey on Tuesday.
The survey, which gave a dire snapshot of young adults’ behaviour, knowledge and attitudes towards sexual health, is intended to guide policy and strengthen services.
The survey showed some 45 per cent of those aged 16 to 18 did not use contraception, despite having multiple partners. This figure shot up to 55 per cent for those aged 19 to 29 and to 65 per cent when it came to 30 to 40-year-olds.
Reacting to the findings, Dr Carabot, the only consultant to run the GU Clinic at Mater Dei Hospital, said he was glad the national sexual health survey had finally been published as it was an important study.
However, he was not surprised by the findings as they confirmed what all GU clinic reports had been saying for the past 14 years.
He expressed frustration at the authorities’ impotence to forge ahead and deliver any concrete action on the issue.
How many more years and reports will it take before we finally see some concrete action?
“After the press conferences and TV slots peter out, are we going to convene with urgency and thrash out the problems highlighted?
“Was this survey a means to an end or simply a PR exercise? How many more years and reports will it take before we finally see some concrete action?” he asked.
Dr Carabot said the survey confirmed that the problems highlighted in all the GU Clinic reports were not confined to its clients, but were being witnessed across the country.
“The lack of adequate knowledge, condom non-use and casual sex fuelled by drugs and alcohol, are not just isolated phenomena confined to the GU attendees, but are a national problem.
“So now we have it in black and white. No more ifs and buts. Do we need any more evidence before we act concretely?”
Asked what he believed was the way forward, Dr Carabot said: “No one has the magic formula, least of all me. But this does not mean that we do not try.”
Dr Carabot felt there was a need to have a full brainstorming conference with all stakeholders, including young people of all sexualities, teachers, doctors, parents, and politicians, to dissect what everybody has been doing, why it has not worked, and what they were going to do about it.
“Unless we do so we will simply keep on fumbling in the dark, and creating more generations of young people who are very ill-prepared for the adult world,” he said.
But Dr Carabot was at a loss to pinpoint the obstacles in the authorities’ path to achieve proper sex education.
“I really don’t know. Previously there was no political will.
“Now I was hoping that the new blood would inject some enthusiasm in the proceedings.
“I’m still waiting. Chi vive sperando... (the person who lives by hope...).”
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