Health watchdogs have recommended local authorities to give out free condoms to men who have sex with men and young people to curb rising HIV and gonorrhea numbers. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) gave the guidance, opening up a consultation, and saying condoms need to be more accessible to the 16-24 age group. This comes just days after NHS England lost a High Court battle after saying it would not fund HIV-preventing PrEP drugs for those most at risk of HIV transmission.
The advice was welcomed by FPA, the sexual health charity, but it suggested that more needed to be done than just provide free condoms. CEO Natika H Halil said: “As well as making condoms more easily and widely available, it’s also really important to back that up with education and support and to think about what barriers may exist to people actually choosing to use them. This should start with statutory sex and relationships education in schools so young people are equipped with the skills and confidence they need to have those important conversations about safer sex with partners.” Adding: “Condoms are already available for free in some places but there are always opportunities to reach more people, including in non-traditional health settings. It’s also important to reiterate the fact that condoms protect against both unplanned pregnancy and STIs, so even if you are using another method of contraception and don’t think about using condoms, you may be at risk of infection.”