In a Senedd debate this week, North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood called on the Welsh Government to take action to address the health and social care inequalities facing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and/or Transgender (LGBT) people in Wales.
Speaking in the debate marking the fact that February is LGBT History Month, an annual opportunity to promote diversity and equality across Wales, Mr Isherwood said LGBT people in Wales continue to face significant health inequalities, with only one in 20 health and social care professionals having received training on LGBT people's health needs, according to Stonewall.
“For this debate, the Terrence Higgins Trust sent me a briefing, stating that rates of HIV and sexually transmitted infections continue to rise, and that gay and bisexual men and young people continue to bear the brunt across Wales, yet access to sexual health services across Wales, including for the LGBT community, continues to deteriorate. They said there's currently no statutory sexual health service provision in Powys, and that sexual health prevention and health promotion services have been decommissioned in Betsi Cadwaladr, Cwm Taf and Hywel Dda health boards, despite these areas being, they say, the most deprived.
“In November 2016, the Welsh Government announced a comprehensive review of sexual health services in Wales, led by Public Health Wales. The Terrence Higgins Trust states it must be done in partnership with communities affected by HIV and sexual ill health and fully meet the needs of these groups, including gay and bisexual men.
“The Welsh Government National Action Plan on Sexual Health and Well-being has come to an end, with no new strategy in place. The Welsh Government, they say, must use the findings of its current review into HIV and sexual health services, as well as evidence around the need for sex and relationship education, to update its expired action plan and set out how it will tackle increasing rates of sexually transmitted infections, support people living with HIV to manage their health and well-being, and ensure that all young people receive the sex and relationship education they want and need.
“The new Action Plan should address the current and emerging issues around HIV and sexual health, including sexualised drug use and the availability of HIV Pre-exposure Prophylaxis, described as a game changer in the fight against HIV, protecting HIV-negative people from acquiring HIV by taking anti-HIV drugs when they are at risk of exposure to HIV.”
Mr Isherwood also spoke of the social isolation and loneliness suffered by those over 50 living with HIV, and of the prejudice and discrimination faced by LGBT people at the end of life and the devastating impact it has on them.
“At its very worst, it means someone will spend their last days feeling isolated, alone, angry and unwelcome. For those who lose a loved one, not being able to say goodbye in a respectful and peaceful environment can make grief and bereavement that much harder to bear. So, let us tackle inequality and promote diversity across Wales together.”