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Sexual health guidelines revamped

Standards for the management of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have been updated by the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) for the first time in four years. 

The report, released in conduction with MEDFASH (Medical Foundation for HIV & Sexual Health) and Public Health England is a comprehensive review and update of previous 2010 standards, following the recent major commissioning changes in sexual health and developments in clinical practice.  

For the first time, the standards now also set out quality measures for services commissioned by local authorities to achieve, aligning them with the approach of NICE quality standards.

Since the passing of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, local authorities now commission most services managing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in England, working alongside clinical commissioning croups (CCGs) and NHS England.

Dr Immy Ahmed, former president of BASHH and project clinical lead for the standards said: “Despite progress in recent years, the UK continues to have high rates of STIs and important challenges in sexual ill-health remain, including high numbers of people with HIV who are unaware of their condition, and significant and rising rates of STIs among men who have sex with men.”

The nine standards cover all aspects of the management of STIs including the diagnosis and treatment of individuals, access to services, and the broader public health role of infection control. 

Ruth Lowbury, chief executive of MEDFASH said: “Effective STI management is vital as it not only improves health outcomes for individuals but also, by preventing new infections, plays a critical role in improving public health and containing costs to the public purse. Using the updated standards will help both commissioners and service providers to reap these benefits for their local populations.”

They cover issues for commissioners, service providers, healthcare professionals and the public, including service users. They are applicable across all sexual health services and should ensure that service users get the same standard of care irrespective of where they attend for their sexual health needs.

The standards have been endorsed by all the leading bodies representing professionals providing sexual health services as well as Public Health England, the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Public Health.