EDITORIAL: Revise safe sex message
THE HIGH NUMBER of sexually transmitted infections recorded in both men and women in Barbados is a concern.
Equally worrying is the age group where it is highest.
In spite of the proliferation of safe sex messages, it was shocking to learn recently that there were still “sustained” high numbers of gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis cases, especially in the 15 to 49 age group.
In the case of syphilis, Dr Anton Best, a senior medical officer in the Ministry of Health, said cases had quadrupled since 2011 when fewer than 100 were recorded.
Barbadians are clearly ignoring the messages which are designed to help them to protect their lives and those of their sexual partners.
For years, the Ministry of Health has been stressing the need to use condoms and to avoid promiscuity.
That message now seems to be lost, particularly on the youth who seem to believe they are invincible and beyond the reach of the ravages of STIs, some of which are incurable and deadly.
Young people who are sexually active need to take heed and take the necessary precautions, recognising there could be dire consequences to irresponsible and reckless behaviour.
Given the age group affected by these STIs, according to the health official, it is important also that young people understand how open they can be to infections if they are not careful.
Perhaps the messages of safe sex and protection need to be revisited and tweaked to ensure that they reach those who are impacted most.
Ineffective messages are a waste and instead what could be more beneficial are outreach programmes and campaigns that target the most vulnerable, especially since the new cases were mainly among those who are unemployed, underemployed or not well educated.
The messages and campaigns also need to be communicated effectively so that they are easily understood.
We, are therefore, pleased that health officials acknowledge the need to have a better targeted strategy to appeal to the most vulnerable and exposed individuals – in schools, homes and the social environment.
This is an important task because we need to secure the future of our nation, recognising that some young people start to explore and experiment sexually from an early age.
The various health groups, including the Barbados Family Planning Association, must be commended for the work they already do in this area and for encouraging people to come forward and be tested for various sexually transmitted infections. Their efforts must be encouraged.
Let us not give credence to that old adage that life is wasted on the youth.