MP Mike Freer calls for sexual health alerts on Tinder to prevent spread of HIV
PUBLISHED: 11:50 17 March 2015 | UPDATED: 11:50 17 March 2015
Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer has called for dating apps like Tinder to carry sexual health messages to help prevent the spread of HIV.
The Tory MP questioned whether the government and NHS were “playing catch up” on sexual health as he backed Labour calls for mandatory sex and relationship education in schools during a Commons debate on HIV prevention on Friday.
He said politicians and health professionals needed to accept that teenagers are finding sexual partners through their phones.
He also called for mandatory sex and relationship education (SRE) in schools, saying that Tory ministers at the Department for Education were wrong to oppose it.
Mr Freer said the sexual health of teenagers is at stake and that the authorities need to realise teenagers are accessing sex and information about sex differently.
Leading the debate on HIV prevention, Mr Freer told the Commons: “When I was at school, in the dim and distant past, sex education was skirted around and if you were lucky you were given a rather dusty old book with some rather dodgy drawings, which actually clearly didn’t teach me very much.
“But today teenagers have access to technology, they are accessing sex differently, they are accessing information differently.
“So we need to educate and inform differently.
“The increasing use of, and I use the term loosely, dating apps means that increasing numbers of people, teenagers, are finding sexual partners through their phones.
“And are our colleagues in government, our colleagues in the health authorities nimble enough?
“Are we using that technology ourselves effectively to ensure that appropriate sexual health messages are there too?
“Are we constantly playing catch up or can we innovate too?”
Mr Freer said gay boys have a particular problem in accessing information about sexual health, as current sex education is “patchy” at best and they may feel too threatened by bullies to seek advice.
He said sex education therefore needs to be made compulsory and inclusive.
Mr Freer said: “One of the problems with regard to a cohort of either gay men or people who declare as MSM (men who have sex with men) is if they are bullied because they show any form of attraction to the same sex, or seek advice, or show that inclination in any shape or form, if they are being bullied whether by other schoolchildren or by teachers or other members of staff in the school they will simply not seek that information.
“They will close down and withdraw and therefore make ill-informed decisions about their sex lives.
“So of course it is time, in my view, that SRE is made compulsory and inclusive.
“And I do appreciate that my colleagues in the Department for Education, that is not their view, and I think they are wrong and I think that they need to reassess this because when we are dealing with people’s health and their future relationships this is too important to get hung up about the ideology of compulsion.”
Public health minister Jane Ellison said she would pass Mr Freer’s concerns on SRE to education secretary Nicky Morgan.
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