Sexual health and blood borne virus action plan: 2023 to 2026

This action plan outlines the sexual health and blood borne virus (HIV, hepatitis C, hepatitis B) priorities for Scotland for 2023 to 2026.

Young people

Sexual health is particularly important for young people as they navigate the complex terrain of sexual development, relationships, and reproductive choices. Good sexual health services play a vital role in ensuring that young people in Scotland have the information, support, and resources they need to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.

Young people under 25 are one of the groups most at risk of poor sexual health outcomes. Since 2019, cases of gonorrhoea infections among sexually active people under 25 years of age have doubled, chlamydia rates are also rising in this age group. Following 14 years of falling abortion rates, 2022 saw a sharp increase in abortion rates in those age 16 -19 years old13.

Sexual Health for young people starts at school with relationships, sexual health and parenthood (RSHP) education. Draft revised statutory teaching guidance for RSHP education is currently subject to public consultation until November 2023. Sexual health policy makers will work with education colleagues on this revision.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that young women may be rejecting hormonal contraception over fears from side effects and misinformation from social media, further work is needed to explore perceptions of hormonal contraception with women. It is vital that we ensure that women can make informed choices about their contraceptive options.

The Scottish Government Health and Wellbeing Census suggests condom and contraception use is low in young people with only 54% of senior pupils reporting using something to prevent pregnancy during their last sexual intercourse and less than 43% using a condom. This trend is also reflected in the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study 2022.

The CONUNDRUM research provided insights into the social context shaping use and non-use of condoms and contraception among young people in Scotland. The findings of this work should be considered to improve uptake of condom use and contraception in young people.

Action 11: Scottish Government to undertake work to ensure that young people have access to clear, accurate sexual health and contraceptive advice, allowing them to make informed choices about their reproductive choices and sexual health.



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