Malta working on first national
Sexual Health Policy
Malta is actively working on its first national Sexual
Health Policy, Foreign Minister Joe Borg announced during a UN high-level
meeting on HIV/AIDS held in New York at the start of the week. Malta
has aligned itself with the declaration of commitment expressed by the
26th special session of the UN General Assembly.
Key elements of the policy include proposals for a review of sex education
in schools and surveillance of major sexually transmitted infections
including HIV. It will also emphasise the need for specific legislation
to address problems such as discrimination in employment opportunities
and other basic human rights.
"Although the problem is relatively contained on our island, it
is still a reality and larger than life for those who live with the
virus day in day out," Minister Borg said.
"Discussing the problem at a national level is not enough. Our
responsibilities as representatives of our citizens compels us to take
the debate further. We have a collective moral obligation towards the
citizens we represent to address this challenge in a concrete manner
and in a concerted global response," Borg said.
The fight, he said, had to be fought on two fronts containment
and prevention: "Admittedly, this is not easy, but the experiences
of other countries that have been successful should serve as an example
for all to follow."
Minister Borg said Malta had closely witnessed the changes and advances
that have occurred in the field over the past years: from the unfortunate
earlier times, when all that could be offered to our patients was the
treatment of opportunistic infections and palliative care, to the more
recent availability of anti-retroviral medication. "This has completely
changed the outlook and quality of life of our patients and all concerned"
"Malta believes that an accessible and well-organised health care
system is the key to an effective containment strategy. Our states
hospitals Infectious Diseases Unit offers a centralised service
on the island. Free anti-retroviral treatment can only be prescribed
from this Unit, which also works very closely with a centralised laboratory
where anonymous HIV testing is carried out. This allows for more accurate
collection of data and epidemiological study, which is central to a
targeted response and appropriate allocation of limited resources.
"Maltas response to the epidemic has been a comprehensive
one, integrating prevention, voluntary confidential counselling and
testing, care, support and treatment. This multi-disciplinary service
is provided by various departments of the national health service working
in close liaison with social workers and related NGOs."
Minister Borg said people living with AIDS in Malta benefit from easy
access to free health care including medication, information, counselling
and support, resulting in an improved quality of life. He said HIV testing
was actively encouraged in all patients attending the recently set-up
walk-in clinic for the diagnosis and management of sexually transmitted
infections. "The very good uptake of 70 per cent is much higher
than the minimum recommended targets," Minister Borg said.