Sexual health in the UK has deteriorated significantly in the last 12 years and the rate of pregnancies in women under 18 years of age is the highest in Europe.
The guidance focuses on one-to-one interventions that aim to address the personal factors that influence an individual's sexual behaviour in order to reduce the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV, and to reduce the rate of under 18 conceptions, especially among vulnerable and at risk groups.
The guidance recommends that:
- Health professionals should identify individuals at high risk of contracting STIs using their sexual history. Opportunities for risk assessment may arise during consultations on contraception, pregnancy or abortion, and when carrying out a cervical smear test, offering an STI test or providing travel immunisation. Risk assessment could also be carried out during routine care or when a new patient registers.
- Health professionals should have one-to-one structured discussions with individuals at high risk of STIs (if trained in sexual health), or arrange for these discussions to take place with a trained practitioner. The discussions should be structured on the basis of behaviour change theories.
- Patients with an STI should be helped to get their partners tested and treated (partner notification), when necessary.
- Midwives and health visitors should regularly visit vulnerable women aged under 18 who are pregnant or who are already mothers and discuss with them and their partner (where appropriate) how to prevent or get tested for STIs and how to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Where appropriate, young women can be referred to relevant agencies, including services concerned with reintegration into education and work.