Funding changes limit sexual health programme

Proposed sexual health funding restrictions come just as an access programme is starting to show results, Dunedin Sexual Health Clinic clinical leader Dr Jill McIlraith says.

The Southern Primary Health Organisation, in its controversial 2011-12 clinical programme, proposes focusing sexual health funds on "high needs" people: Maori, Pacific Island, and those in poor socio-economic areas.

"The impact of this will mean that programmes such as the [former PHO] Well Dunedin under-25 sexual health programme, which was widely used by all ethnic groups, will be changed to a more limited programme focused on high-needs patients - fewer patients able to access these free visits for sexual health, and for a maximum of two appointments a year," Dr McIlraith said.

Dr McIlraith credited the programme with a drop in Dunedin chlamydia rates (the rate of positive tests dropped to 6.3% from 7.4%), arresting seven years of increases.

"That doesn't sound a lot but represents several hundred less chlamydia-positive young people.

"I have some regret that a programme that is just starting to show results will not continue."

However, Dr McIlraith said she understood the changes because the super PHO, which combined nine Otago and Southland entities, had to provide services over a huge area.

PHO chairman Dr Conway Powell said the changes to sexual health funding ensured equality of access throughout Otago and Southland.

Under the old PHOs, there was disparity in Otago and Southland, with no PHO-funded access to sexual health visits at all in Southland.

Dr Powell said there was evidence that in a "number of cases", people used PHO-funded sexual health visits because they were "convenient".



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