SEXUAL HEALTH CAMPAIGNER CONDEMNS LACK OF SEXUAL HEALTH SERVICES IN NORTH BELFAST

A LEADING sexual health campaigner has condemned the lack of sexual health services in North Belfast. Mary Crawford, director of Brook Northern Ireland, a sexual health advice service for young people under 25, has condemned the lack of service provisions in one of Northern Ireland’s most deprived areas.“We can only provide on session a week for local young people, while the Community Family Planning in Carlise House on the Antrim Road only provides two. This serves the whole of North Belfast alone, compared with the availability of services in South, East and West Belfast.
“I am calling on local politicians to find funding to fix this situation. North Belfast has high rates of teenage pregnancies, yet few chemists in the area provide emergency contraception across the counter, and they have among the lowest rates of doctors prescribing contraception to patients.
Ms Crawford added that the poor availability of services was down to “lack of strategic planning” by local authorities.
“From a sexual health point of view, it is hard to work in North Belfast because of how it is divided; trying to find a neutral space in North Belfast is very hard.
“There is a general lack of awareness concerning sexual health within Northern Ireland. I was asked to give a talk on chlamydia by a health organisation in North Belfast on the condition that I did not give out free condoms. I refused. We have trouble getting into North Belfast anyways, because of how segregated its community is. It is hard to find neutral ground. For example, one community partner in Ardoyne decided not to work with us because Protestants may not feel comfortable travelling to there.”
According to statistics from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), Belfast has the highest number of teenage mothers in the province, with 364 babies being born to girls aged 13-19 in 2007 alone.
North Belfast Partnership’s four Neighbourhood renewal schemes, based in Upper Ardoyne/Ligoniel, Inner North Belfast, Crumlin/Ardoyne and Rathcoole, are said to be working together to improve sexual health services in the area. The partnership between the groups is in its early stages, but it will be “taking things forward”.
BY LYRA MCKEE
©FAME INC
fameinc.co.uk

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Filed under HEALTH & FITNESS, KIDS & YOUNG PEOPLE, OPINION, PEOPLE

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