Sexual health and blood borne viruses continue to be of high priority for the Scottish Government. The Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Framework represents an ambitious vision for these key public health challenges, bringing them together for the very first time.
The Framework is based on the solid foundations of existing policy, notably our sexual health strategy, Respect and Responsibility, and the Hepatitis C Action Plan. It continues our renewed focus on HIV, as signalled by the publication of the HIV Action Plan in 2009, and establishes a policy landscape in Scotland for hepatitis B. As we take this agenda forward, we intend to challenge inequalities; build on current achievements; and consider new priorities, new advances and new evidence.
It is important to recognise that improving sexual health and blood borne virus outcomes cannot be achieved in isolation. This Framework will establish real and active links with other national health concerns such as alcohol and drugs misuse as well as linkages to areas such as education, gender-based violence and the early years.
I acknowledge that these are challenging times for the public sector, and the Framework presents an ambitious agenda. It also, however, reflects the strength of enthusiasm and expertise that exists throughout Scotland for continuing improvement in sexual health and blood borne virus outcomes. The strategy reflects the key priorities of our colleagues throughout Scotland, priorities which I fully endorse.
Improving sexual health and blood borne virus outcomes should be based on supporting those in our communities who are most vulnerable and ensuring that high quality treatment, care and support is accessible for all whenever, and wherever, they require it.
We want to live in a society where attitudes towards sexual health and wellbeing, to HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B are supportive and non-stigmatising. Where people of all ages and from all backgrounds feel enabled to seek the support they need without fear of discrimination or recrimination, whether that be from parents or carers; health and care professionals; or employers and work colleagues.
The portrayal of issues around sexual health and blood borne viruses in the media should be fair and balanced, so that we can all feel that we are equal and valued members of society in Scotland.
I believe that through the Framework we can harness the spectrum of skills and expertise that has seen such impressive advances in Scotland in sexual health and blood borne virus prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care and support to date.
Through working together we can see a healthy and more inclusive Scotland where sexual relationships are based on good communication and are free from harm; where life-affecting infection can be prevented and where people living with blood borne viruses can live healthier, fulfilling lives; and where no one is stigmatised for their health status, their life choices or lifestyle.
Michael Matheson MSP
Minister for Public Health