Pregnancy and STI fears over cash cuts

By Anita Moran

If funding for sexual health clinics was removed from Rotorua the city could see an increase in sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies.

Many young Aucklanders face having to pay for previously free sexual health consultations because of the Government's squeeze on health dollars.

This is expected to contribute to an increase in New Zealand's already internationally high rates of teenage pregnancy and some sexually transmitted infections, including chlamydia.

Last year, 15 district health boards reported 25,000 positive tests for the disease, according to a report for the Health Ministry.

The ProCare primary healthcare group provides sexual health advice and treatment free to all under 22 in central Auckland.

In other parts of the region the free service is restricted to "high-needs" people under 22 - defined as Maori, Pacific and those who live in the poorest fifth of localities - but in practice it is also provided free to many others in this age group.

From next month, the service will be free only to high-needs patients.

However, other health services in Auckland provide sexual health services - such as Family Planning and the East Health clinics. Both are free for the young.

Rotorua youth health centre clinical leader Dr Tania Pinfold said the funding for the Rotorua clinic had "luckily" remained unchanged. "When I heard about what was happening in Auckland I was a bit concerned," she said.

"But our funding isn't changing. Thank God it is not happening to us."

The Rotorua youth health centre provides free healthcare to those under the age of 25.

Dr Pinfold said hundreds of youths used the health centre and the majority of those used the centre for sexual health consultations and contraception.

"We do about 500 consults a month and about 300 of those are for sexual health or contraception."

She said if Rotorua faced similar cuts like in Auckland it would have a huge impact on the city's youth.

"Cost is a major barrier to those who use our services," she said.

"If we were to start charging people, a high number of those who come to us, won't come."

Youth health specialist Dr Simon Denny, of the University of Auckland, said New Zealand already had high rates of young people not going to the doctor when they needed to.

"Especially young people who are sexually active," he said.

"This is just going to make further barriers for them."


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