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ERG questions if sexual health clinic curtailed

Photo by Eyleen Gomez

The Equality Rights Group has questioned whether Gibraltar’s sexual health clinic has been curtailed beyond recognition.

The clinic known as the Well Person Clinic was launched in 2018 with an aim to provide services including sexual health screening, family planning, and health MOTs.

“People are increasingly coming to us asking ‘what’s going on?’,” ERG Chairman Felix Alvarez said.

“According to complaints I have been receiving for some time now, the service is alleged to have been curtailed beyond recognition if not entirely withdrawn, with apparently some professionals even resigning as a result.”

“If this information is correct, we ask: what’s happened? And why has the Minister for Health not explained the situation to the public? And even if it’s not, a clarification is the minimum competency to be expected in order to quell any ensuing anxieties. It may be there are plans neither we nor the public are aware of. But people do deserve that much.”

“We have consequently written to the Minister for Health asking for information on the matter, rather than allowing what might be inaccuracies to continue circulating. Indeed, with infectious diseases expert Dr. Autilia Newton now standing by Ms. Sacramento’s side as acting Director of Public Health, it is perhaps judicious that either or both post-holders address this question with the utmost sense of responsibility and minimum of delay.”

Dr Alvarez added as Chair of the ERG he had personally approached the then Minister for Health in 2012, Dr John Cortes.

“At that point in time, HIV/Aids was an issue I was receiving much concern over, and so therefore felt needed better management,” Mr Alvarez said.

“Minister Cortes lost no time in responding, and started a line of dialogue which bore much fruit over time. It is this responsibility to the public (whose needs inspired ERG’s work in this direction in the first place) that underpins our concerns today in highlighting what by various indications appears to be a diminished situation.”

“The talks with John Cortes took on a life of their own with a mutual interchange of information which continued through a number of years until Neil Costa later unexpectedly took on the mantle of Health as a result of a reshuffle in the Cabinet. Some very good collaborative work took place between ERG and the Ministers in this time, and through regular dialogue, we advanced jointly with both Ministers and senior GHA staff on the founding concept of a confidential but broad sexual health service being made available within the ambit of Primary Care; a service which needed to overcome issues of reticence.”

“The then Minister worked to fulfil the challenging remit of confidentiality and privacy presented by a small community context; and in September 2018 he suddenly and almost unexpectedly launched the service. It was a moment of satisfaction that the Administration had understood the need brought to them directly by civil society and responded to a growing medical reality in our community despite vestiges of resistance.”

“The successful and positive rapport constructed under Ministers Cortes and Costa led to a dialogue that fed both information and experience from the grass-roots up to the decision-making tables. And it worked. Unfortunately, this level of interchange seems scarce these days. ERG too often hears of the self-same problem from across an array of civil society organisations.”

“We are hopeful that clarifications on the present situation will be forthcoming nonetheless; and, as usual, ERG will not rest until the public is informed as to the status of this important service.”

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