Saturday, 30 June 2007

what a treat

A very good friend of mine who lives in New Zealand has been staying at my flat this week with my godson who is a baby/toddler of 18 months. Both are absolutely divine to have around. And i was enthralled and delighted watching him grasp new things, meet new people, new words and new ideas. What a treat to have them here. To celebrate their visit and another friend moving to Australia we had a BBQ last night. The rain held off. Some friends who i see regularly and those i haven't seen for a while came. We had a great evening that went on too late, but felt too short, and as people left we all pronounced how silly it is not to see each other often and we promised we would not leave it so long this time.

And this morning as I clear up the mess I really hope that it is true. Having done lots of sex education with young people about friendship and on occassion the activities i have used have felt a bit trite, and today i wonder if we really do enough to help young people develop a range of friendships and provide opportunities and learning which enable them to experience the fun, the support and the joy that i do from mine.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

A bit of a do

Last night at a brilliant event held by MAC Cosmetics in Bloomsbury Ballrooms , Holborn, Mica Paris, the soul singer and presenter of What Not to Wear accepted a cheque on behalf of Brook. Dita Von Tees presented the cheque as a promoter of Viva Glam VI, the new lipstick, all the proceeds of which go to MAC AIDS Fund which supports children and their families affected by HIV (

The money will fund pilot work at Brook services in Manchester and London to reduce stigma and homophobia in relation to HIV, and to provide testing to those young people who are at particular risk of HIV. Find out more at Dita Von Tees, did a stunning burlesque performance which reminded me of my new years resolution to exercise and remain supple.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Alcohol and sexual cultures

My week didn't start too well. About two hours ago my leg got trapped in the tube door. My lovely clean trousers have a big black mark on them and I am now going to be speaking at the NAZ (find out more about NAZ at conference taboos and mixed messages : sexual health promotion among black and minority ethnic youth this afternoon feeling grubby. This coupled with my guilt at forgetting to send Dad a card for fathers day is not, i hope, an indicator of how Monday is going to pan out.

Last week I was pleased to see the attention on the links between sex, alcohol and other drugs in the newspapers. A few years ago whilst at the National Children's Bureau I worked on a youth participation project on the issue ( Young people told us time and again that we need to do more to help them understand the links, and develop skills in identifying, assessing and managing risk. They also reminded us that whilst we have a smutty culture around sex and young people feel embarrassed or ashamed to talk about it with a partner they are much more likely to use alcohol and other drugs as part of their sexual experience.

Recent research by Brook in Blackburn found that 67% of young people said they were more likely to have unprotected sex when they were drunk. The facts are clear, we need to overcome our cultural reticence about sex as part of our commitment to helping them build healthy relationships and look after their sexual and emotional health.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Abortion Matters

Thankfully a Bill which would effectively put more barriers in the way of women accessing abortion was defeated in parliament this week.

Ask Brook our helpine gets a significant number of calls from young people about abortion. Many call when they have been to their GP and experienced barriers when they have tried to to arrange an abortion. They have either been refused a referral; have been actively encouraged not to have an abortion; feel as though they have had wrong information; or that delaying tactics are being used so their choices are limited.

When they ask for help young women deserve high standards of care. Anything that gets in the way of this is simply unacceptable.

Tell me what you think!

Over the last week several people have said 'i've been reading your blog and enjoying it' or 'I've been reading your blog and i thought the point you made was interesting but.....'. I am really interested in hearing your views about what I am saying so we can hear and learn from each other. So next time you read something and think, 'that is interesting but' or 'no way i don't agree with that' write a comment so we can all learn from each other and elevate the debate. You do have to have a google account, and it only takes 1 minute to set it up.

Friday, 1 June 2007

The case for vaccinating girls against HPV

A new study published in the Lancet today has strengthened the already convincing evidence that vaccinating girls and young women against the human papilloma virus that causes cervical cancer is important. The combined results of four trials across the world show the vaccine is 99% effective for girls who have never had sex.

So, we have a vaccine that saves lives. This vaccine is a major scientific breakthrough and it is much more effective if we vaccinate young women before they become sexually active. No arguments then - ensuring universal access to the vaccination is scientifically and morally the right thing to do. My guess is most people would agree. Despite this there is a minority voice that argues vaccinating children is likely to encourage earlier sexual activity. This assertion is no more rooted in fact or evidence than the well refuted claim that sex and relationships education does the same.

Like sex and relationships education however, the vaccination is not a universal panacea. It must be administered in a macro and micro cultural context where emotional literacy and competence is developed, sex and relationships are talked about honestly; where young people learn that trust within relationships is important and they have rights to make choices about the sex they do or don’t choose to have.