The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) is today calling for change to improve access for young people in Australia and New Zealand to sexual and reproductive care.
Today, the RACP launched its Sexual and Reproductive Health Care for Young People Position Statement, outlining the need for information, education and clinical care that supports healthy sexual development and informed choices.
RACP Paediatrics and Child Health Division President Dr Nicki Murdock said appropriate access to sexual and reproductive care will improve health care outcomes for all young people. This includes young people who are Indigenous, gender diverse, same-sex attracted or who live with disabilities or long-term conditions.
“Almost one quarter of New Zealand students surveyed in 2012 were sexually active, yet less than half always use condoms when they have sex[i],” Dr Murdock said.
Sexual Health Physician Dr Sarah Martin said sexually transmitted infections, unplanned pregnancy, abuse and bullying in relation to sexuality and gender identity, and domestic and sexual violence remain significant concerns for the health and wellbeing of many young people in Australia and New Zealand.
“Accessible, timely and targeted sexual and reproductive health care is essential, and it is imperative that relationships and safe sex are discussed in relation to same-sex as well as heterosexual intimacy,” Dr Martin said.
Young Māori in particular have high rates of both chlamydia and gonorrhoea[ii]. Dr Martin said it is essential to maintain a focus on education and prevention that is relevant to all young people at risk.
“Getting the right knowledge about sexuality, relationships and the right health care is essential for young people to be able to make appropriate and healthy decisions that will affect their adult lives.”
The RACP is calling on Australasian governments, health professionals and health services to act on the College’s recommendations. Policy and legislative change has also been proposed.
RACP recommendations include:
• Promoting young people’s right to confidential and non-judgemental sexual and reproductive health care
• Ensuring physically and financially feasible access to sexual and reproductive health care, with options for free health care
• Specific services for young people who may face increased discrimination or vulnerability
• Including the needs of young people in planning, service delivery and guideline development
• Sexuality and relationships education curricula are accurate and evidence-based