Sexual Health Week 2020

Get your RSE in gear, Sexual Health Week 2020

The theme of this year’s Sexual Health Week is ‘Get your RSE in gear’, focusing on the introduction by the Department of Education of compulsory Relationships Education for primary pupils and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) for secondary pupils this month in England.

Despite the impact the school curriculum has faced since March 2020 due to COVID-19, schools are being encouraged to begin teaching RSE. The subject is now compulsory, with schools who are facing challenging circumstances being advised to begin lessons by at least the start of the summer term 2021.

The implementation of compulsory RSE provides an opportunity to provide young people with the tools and skills they need to have good sexual health, and enable them to make informed decisions which impact their wellbeing. It will also provide young people with the education they need to learn about HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

What support do teachers need?

– Dave Grimmett, Head of PHSEE, Highgate Wood School

‘RSE is an important part of every student’s education which should not be underestimated. RSE empowers students to make informed life choices in situations which may affect their mental or physical health, RSE also holds the power to reduce the negative consequences of these decisions in the future.

‘RSE is often thought of as being focussed on romantic and/or sexual relationships. However, it also empowers students to become better citizens by encouraging them to value or at least appreciate the differences of others’ states of being, experiences, choices and beliefs. Whether this relates to gender, sexuality, culture or religious custom it inspires students to reflect on their own actions and how this may positively or negatively impact on someone else. In other words we are teaching students to be kind in their adult relationships, a trait which we try to instil at a young age in friendships but don’t always discuss as they become older.

‘My school highly welcomed RSE becoming compulsory as it has provided us with a greater understanding of what education young people need rather than what areas we think we should cover. It was validating as I felt our school had already delivered key areas of RSE, but it was obvious there were subjects we still needed to tackle.

‘As we create and update our curriculum, it is the perfect time to be innovative in what is taught and the way it is taught. This can be daunting for schools and colleagues who are new to teaching the content or have limited experience of teaching RSE. It may also be difficult for some schools to know how to adapt to the change, and to create enough time and space for RSE to be taught effectively, although this is important.’

Teachers can be supported with practical information from experienced health professionals and Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) partners including:

  • The shared experiences of how to approach sensitive issues in group settings.
  • Examples of group activities that deliver health promotion work effectively that teachers could adapt to deliver RSE.
  • Resources such as videos or stories that communicate with young people clearly and could be used as a platform for further discussion and learning.
  • Key contacts in your organisations who can liaise with RSE leads in local schools and pass on relevant information and messages across local authorities.
  • Willing colleagues visiting schools or engaging via video conferencing to speak with RSE teachers and other key groups such as students school councils to answer questions they may have or to provide advice.
  • As the experts in sexual health, provide particular messages or local campaigns you want teachers to share with young people in your area.

While teachers and educational professionals are updating their curriculums and ensuring the professional development of RSE leads and their peers includes training on RSE, now is the best time to embed good practice and creatively share ideas and experiences.

Sexual health and HIV prevention ambitions

The Government has made clear commitments to establishing a national sexual health strategy to tackle increasing rates of STIs, and to reducing new HIV transmissions to zero by 2030.

The introduction of compulsory RSE adds vital support to these initiatives achieving their targets. Not only does RSE educate current and future generations of young people, but it also increases the volume of professionals working within the systems that can nurture good sexual health.

Health professionals working in sexual health and HIV, including those from VCSE organisations, commissioners and public health experts, clinicians and researchers, must support teachers as they navigate the new curriculum.

Educational professionals can provide vital expertise and pathways to reaching young people, who are some of the most disproportionately affected populations by high rates of STIs.

Get your RSE in gear’ is a perfect call to action to encourage experts in sexual health and HIV to think about how they evaluate the support they provide to educational professionals, and to motivate teachers to deliver good quality and engaging RSE in their classrooms.

Manchester launches new HIV campaign

HIV: Let's sort this together.

The PaSH Partnership (BHA for Equality, George House Trust, and LGBT Foundation) have launched a new campaign which aims to end new cases of HIV in Greater Manchester.

Launched at the HIV Commission Hearing Session on 13 February 2020, the HIV: Let’s sort this together campaign is part of the first phase towards Greater Manchester’s ambition of ending all new cases of HIV within a generation by reducing transmissions, late HIV diagnoses, and eventually new diagnoses of HIV. This is an important part of the Greater Manchester Population Health Plan for residents to have the best start in life, and to live and age well.

The campaign

The campaign motivates residents of Greater Manchester to take charge of their sexual health and plan a safer, more enjoyable sex life in a number of ways:

  • TEST: Encourage residents to test regularly for HIV by providing information on how and where to test.
  • MANAGE: Advise those who test positive for HIV how to manage their HIV treatment and receive the support they need to reach undetectable and, therefore, untransmittable viral levels (U=U).
  • PREVENT: Inform and encourage methods such as PEP, PrEP, and condoms and lube.

The campaign is promoted via:

  • social media and digital advertising
  • radio and out-of-home advertising
  • the Sort HIV website
  • merchandise for community events
  • PR

Get involved

Community leaders, faith leaders, GPs, sexual health clinics and other stakeholders are invited to take part by:

  • Using promotional materials such as print-ready posters and flyers, waiting room screens and digital assets, including email footers, website banners and desktop wallpaper – access via Dropbox.
  • Sharing the campaign on your social media channels and through internal communications.
  • Telling service users and community members about SortHIV.org.uk, where they can access information about HIV and prevention as well as links to order home testing kits.
  • Using the hashtag #SortHIV to talk about the campaign on social media.

Prepping for PrEP

Positive East launched ‘Mama Says’ in November 2018. The 90-second film clip, available in six languages, is an animated tool to encourage pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) uptake amongst communities at risk of HIV who may not be aware of HIV and PrEP. ‘Mama Says’ is specifically designed for African communities.

Read more

Register for our PrEP information seminar in Manchester

PreP Seminar in Manchester

Working together with the PaSH partnership, we will be hosting an information seminar on PrEP in Greater Manchester.

It will be free to attend and will be held on Wednesday 14 March at The Landing, MediaCityUK, Salford.

The session will cover:

  • the ongoing PrEP Impact Trial.
  • how PrEP fits into the HIV combination prevention package.
  • the role of health professionals in ensuring adequate access by those in need.

The seminar targets a broad range of professionals including commissioners, HIV and sexual health professionals, community outreach workers, and general practice and pharmacy professionals.

Register now as places are limited.

National HIV Testing Week Round Up

National HIV Testing Week 2017 launched with much excitement and many activities happening around the country.

On Wednesday 15 November, Prince Harry attended the opening of Terrence Higgins Trust’s HIV self testing Pop-up Shop in Hackney, London, to launch the national campaign at the highest level.

He met with Andrew Bates, a young man who was diagnosed with HIV in 2015, who shared his story and talked about the importance of testing. Prince Harry also met Yvette Twagiramariya, a reporter and one of the faces of the It Starts With Me campaign, who took a live HIV test to show him how the self testing kits work.

The Prince met and talked with some local Hackney residents, and gave each of them one of the self testing kits to take home.

Government and political activity

On the same day, Public Health England (PHE) released new figures which showed that the drive to increase HIV testing is having an impact, with a 21.8% drop in the number of people who are undiagnosed and do not know that they are living with HIV.

The rate of late diagnosis is also decreasing gradually, although it still remains unacceptably high.

Dr Valerie Delpech, Head of HIV Surveillance at Public Health England (PHE), said: ‘This year, there are three firsts in the 30-year history of the UK HIV epidemic.

‘In London, all the global UNAIDS 90:90:90 targets have been met [;] … HIV transmission among gay and bi men has fallen [;] and the death rate among people with HIV who are diagnosed promptly and on treatment is now comparable to the rest of the population. We celebrate these extraordinary achievements which are the result of a comprehensive response involving many key players and organisations. By continuing to invest in effective preventative measures … the elimination of HIV transmission, AIDS and HIV-related deaths could become a reality in the UK.’

In support of National HIV Testing Week 2017, PHE expanded availability of free HIV postal test kits to all areas of England. The additional tests are available to order until Thursday 4 January 2018. Last year more than 20,000 tests were ordered during a similar period and we anticipate that even more will be distributed this year.

This year we had more MPs than ever test for HIV. We worked in collaboration with Yorkshire MESMAC, The African Institute of Social Development, Staffordshire Buddies, Sunrise Family Support, Trade Sexual Health, LASS, Summit House, The Brigstowe Project and The Brunswick Centre to test 16 MPs all around England.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd took the blood test, as did Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, Public Health Minister Steve Brine and Labour’s Liz Kendall to promote National HIV Testing Week.

Ms Rudd and a number of MPs tested in their parliamentary offices, while others attended the Terrence Higgins Trust headquarters in London or visited local services in their constituencies.

Afterwards, the Home Secretary tweeted: ‘Despite the look on my face, the pain wasn’t that bad! Just took an HIV test with Terrence Higgins Trust to raise awareness for HIV Testing Week.’

Other MPs who also took HIV tests include: Labour’s Sarah Champion, Peter Kyle, Lilian Greenwood, Gareth Snell, Ian Austin, Thangham Debbonaire, Tracy Brabin, Thelma Walker and Alex Norris, along with Stephen Hammond, Tom Pursglove and Jon Ashworth from the Conservatives.

Mr Kyle, MP for Hove, told the BBC: ‘HIV is a long-term manageable condition and the earlier the diagnosis, the better it is for the patient, so it’s important to get tested no matter who you are.

‘The fear and stigma surrounding HIV is still a barrier to testing, so I hope I’ve shown today that having a test is fuss-free and easy and that I can help make the stigma and fear around HIV a thing of the past.’

Local activity

The GMI Partnership, consisting of Positive East, METRO and Spectra, also launched National HIV Testing Week locally by holding a large-scale rapid workplace HIV testing initiative with Tideway. Tideway is a huge construction project, with approximately 1,000 people on site daily.

Newham CCG staff and partners kick-started a new local HIV programme with a workplace testing event on Friday 24 November, demonstrating a commitment to enhanced HIV testing efforts. A total of 28 staff got tested and the event also received coverage in local media.

Barts Health NHS Trust, in partnership with Waltham Forest Council, provided a range of briefing sessions on HIV and hepatitis C as part of National HIV Testing Week. All the sessions were open to anyone working in a healthcare setting and had a good turnout.

Local authorities commissioned extra activities and promotion in their respective areas, including Croydon, Redbridge, Sutton, Kingston, Hertfordshire and Manchester.

Clinics and community organisations prepared more than 300 additional testing events around the country for people to participate in, which were promoted through the It Starts With Me website. These tests and other events such as information stalls occurred in clinics, pharmacies, libraries, colleges, night venues, and mobile testing buses in Birmingham, Kingston, Redbridge, Buckinghamshire, Somerset, Blackpool, Walsall, Lancashire and many other areas.

Organisations including Terrence Higgins Trust and The Brunswick Centre also gave media interviews to raise awareness of HIV testing during the week and to dispel the stigma people affected by HIV face.

Campaign results

Dr Graham Mackenzie, a Consultant in Public Health, kindly mapped out the Twitter impact of the campaign over the course of the event, and has published a blog showing the results. Over a 17 day period, there were 7,113 tweets from 3,138 contributors, an estimated audience of 19.4 million individuals and 47.5 million impressions.

We are still in the process of gathering data to evaluate the overall campaign. Kantar Public is currently conducting an independent evaluation into the overall reach and impact of National HIV Testing Week to target communities. At the same time, we are putting together an in-house evaluation of the other aspects of the campaign including social media activity, resources ordered, tests delivered, and media coverage.

Your feedback is valuable to us. Please complete a brief, five minute survey to tell us about your experience during testing week and how we can improve in the future.

Thank you for all your support, enthusiasm and dedication to stopping HIV in the UK and participating in National HIV Testing Week to help achieve this goal.