on Merseyside - Part 1 of 3.
WE all know the new advert
for Talk To
Frank about drugs that
says:- "Who can you ask?" but who do you look to for
sexual advice? You've probably heard lots of discouraging news about
sexually transmitted diseases (STD or STI), but do you know the real
facts? Oddly, sex is a very difficult subject on which to gain
information and advice, and also most people in the UK are very shy
about the topic. As one female friend said:- "You just canít
be frank about sex." Perhaps the 'Ask Frank'
adverts may not be the best, but they do get noticed. However, I
would dread to think what you would get if you used that type of
advert style for sex related issues! I remember once seeing a sex
advert allegedly aimed at getting advice to children, but it was
very poorly done and really better suited to older adolescents. The
question that then came to my mind is do we need a major campaign
for sex related issues and if so what sort? The Health Protection
Agency at the end of 2010 revealed that some of the highest rates of
STIs were found in the London boroughs, as well as in Brighton and
Hove, Nottingham City, Manchester, Blackpool, Birmingham,
Southampton and Liverpool, so a push is now on in these areas to
fight the spread. Oddly, most people think about sex education and
information is related just to their teenage years, and to what you
read in magazines and see on often long winded TV programs.
editions back we
did a report about Sefton Shorts, a film competition that was done
to engage young people with sexual health and relationship issues in
an innovative and creative way. Local college students created a
series of short films about safe sex, contraception and sexually
transmitted infections (STIs). This was a good example of ways to
promote 'Safer Sex'. It probably comes as no surprise
that most parents' information is often dated and in the case of
fathers talking to their children about sex, you find it tends to be
very limited where conversation concerns intimate issues. With
mothers, research conducted by the NHS in recent years has found
that they are more likely to talk about intimate, emotional and
psychological aspects of sex than fathers. That is all well and
good, but when it comes to STIs (Sexual Transmitted Infections) it
often is just what they learn in educational establishments that
they go on. Fortunately, many young people are now less embarrassed
or put off going to ask GPís and teachers when they are unsure about
things; unlike adults in their mid-20s and over. Other areas cited
as sources of information for adults are posters and leaflets, media
reports and agony aunt columns in newspapers, many of which can be
effective, but how many people know somewhere reliable to ask for
simple questions? Questions like, where can I get free testing for
STIs? Even things like:- "Is it true that you cannot get an
STD if you have sex during your period?" and say:- "If
I douche right after sex, will this prevent pregnancy?" In
these cases, if you did not know, like so many adults questioned in
the last half of 2011 by several sex charities:- "Sex during
your period may even make transmission of STDs easier as blood is
involved." and as for douching, well:- "douching may
actually increase your chances of contracting an STD and it will not
prevent pregnancy!" SorryÖ. As for STI testing, please see
our useful links page. Other excellent campaigns have been organised
by many lesbian and gay charities, looking at STI and other sex
related issues, aimed at the gay community, but for straight adults
over 20, it there seems to be an odd void. It is no wonder why STIs
in 50+ age bracket have doubled in the past 10 years. Times have
changed and sex is no longer seen as belonging only to the younger
generation. But sadly, the Royal College of Nursing warns STIs are a
growing problem for the over 40s, and that the problem is still
being ignored. One adult we spoke to said:- "There are so many
excellent campaigns that are aimed at our nation's youth, alerting
them to the dangers of unprotected sex, yet none are for our
generation, who are over 45. The cartoon characters and street slang
just don't speak to us and even some teenagers are put off."
So how do we address this? We conducted a small experiment to see
how many knew about testing for STIs; did they know where to go and
would they actually go. We casually approached people in the 18 to
40 years age bracket and we were quite surprised by what we found.
Unsurprisingly, they tended to be people we knew and most have
connections to the health service in some form, which did slightly
skew the findings somewhat... But what we did find was an eye
opener. "It is just weird. I am just too uncomfortable about
getting tested and it is personal. I donít like talking about it. I
know my partners have all been clean as they have been tested, but
the one I am currently with I have never asked. I have never asked
as I know he is clean for other reasons as he gives blood!"
One young lady in her early 20ís told us.
One of the few responses that did shock me was from a lady in her
early 40ís who told us that:- "I do not see the point. It is
just for people who go out and sleep around who need to be tested. I
think young people need to be tested, but older people, even if they
are single donít. Our generation is less likely to have any STIís."
Unsurprisingly, the best informed ages we asked were the 18 to 20
group who did not have any heath related connections! The next step
was to put a question on
Facebook "Do you think
people should get STI tests before entering a relationship that
might involve sex?" Again unsurprisingly, we had only one
responder, but it is early daysÖ
We are pleased to find that so far none of us had the response one
of the health professionals we talked to got put to her. She told us
that no so long back she was taken aback by a question from a female
who was in her mid-30ís who asked:- "I will be ok if I just
have oral sex wonít I? That I can have it and they will not need to
use a condom as it will not get me pregnant?" Well we can
say she was partly correct. Giving or receiving oral sex will not
get you Ďpregnantí but sadly you can get an STI including HIV/AIDS!
This shocking question highlighted a large gap in the understanding
of sexual health education. Worse still was another healthcare
worker who told us about a growing trend
in over 20ís to "double up." This is a growing myth
that the use of 2 condoms better than 1, in protecting you from
pregnancy and STIís. In fact 2 condoms offer LESS protection, due to
friction when they are used. The friction makes the condoms more
likely to tear.
Next week we are hoping to bring you a personal view of getting an
STI check and explain what it feels like and what happens, should
you have never had one before. We will also be asking the question,
should people get STI checks before entering any sexual situation?
Please let us know your views on this topic. We will keep any emails
you send confidential if you want us to. Just state that fact in the
email at the start or at the end. Please note that we only want your
views on this topic. Like for example, what you think about
advertisement of STI testing in the UK etc. We cannot give any
advice, but we will try and point you to a location that might help
you find out, if you do email any other question. Our email address
for this is as normal:-
Well donít have nightmares, these are a few useful sites that might
help you find out more...
Cheshire & Merseyside Sexual Health Network.
Where can I get sexual health advice?
Talking About Sex NHS Advice Page.
Budget 2012 -
"Make tax simple and proportionate" says Forum of Private
JUST over a week until the
Chancellorís annual statement and the Forum of Private Business is
highlighting research from its tax and budget member panel showing
small businesses want a major re-think of taxation in the UK.
The Forum is calling for key measures on tax to help small firms
drive job creation and economic growth; including changing the
existing £5,000 National Insurance holiday for the first ten
employees recruited by start-ups to apply to the first two new staff
taken on by all firms, handing private lenders tax breaks to boost
available finance and drastic improvements in HM Revenue and
Customís (HMRCís) systems. According to the research, while 54% of
business owners feel the current deficit reduction programme is
'about right', 44% called for wholesale changes to the
structure of the UKís tax system, 24% want certain tax breaks
removed to simplify the system and 15% would welcome a moratorium on
tax changes. A 3rd (32%) of tax and budget panel members
believe that HMRC could improve service levels via more easily
understandable communication methods, reducing bureaucracy in the
process, a total of 29% said better support at key steps in the
business lifecycle would help them and 23% wanted reminders about
imminent payment deadlines. In all, 53% of respondents believe
HMRC is doing a poor job in supporting them. Further, 52% feel its
tone of communication is poor, 45% that it is doing a poor job over
targeting tax avoidance schemes, 33% criticised its lack of
definitive answers to tax questions and 32% the lack of clarity in
Looking to the Budget, business owners prioritised reducing fuel
taxes to ease costs, a VAT reduction for labour intensive industries
and removing barriers to employment, such as cutting employersí
National Insurance. They also want less emphasis on measures
devoted to short-term revenue-raising; including many of HMRCís
activities and business rates increases; encouragement for business
investment to stimulate demand and better red tape reform.
"The Budget is a real opportunity to remove the growth barriers
for small firms created by the complexity of the tax system. It is
clearly one that should not be missed. In particular, our members
want a level playing field on tax, and the UKís tax system to be
conducive to business growth and success rather than a hurdle that
is a struggle to overcome. It is also time to see genuine tax
incentives to boost employment and investment in small businesses;
including more encouragement for private lenders to compete with
banks and stimulate funding for all firms." said the Forumís
Chief Executive, Phil Orford.
In its Budget submission the Forum is urging the Chancellor to
announce progressive measures on tax to:-
► Incentivise behaviour that encourages
investment in UK businesses.
► Reduce the tax on interest received
during the lifetime of a loan to 0%, instead of the 50% top tax
rate, providing the loan is still outstanding after 3 years.
► Implement 20% income tax relief on loans
(a loan of £100,000 would cost a lender paying top rate of tax
► Provide additional tax relief if a
business fails before the loan is repaid; the lender could claw back
up to 50% income tax relief (at the top rate) on money lost if the
firm fails, in addition to tax saved when the loan was issued.
► Consider a short term cut in VAT in the
housing sector In order to stimulate the construction industry and
help boost the industry and create jobs. The Government could cut
VAT on home improvements.
Cut small firmsí corporation tax rate at similar
levels to the welcome reductions in the main rate in order to reward
successful small businesses.
► Scrap the 50% income tax rate, balanced
by raising the minimum earnings threshold for paying tax to £10,000,
following mounting evidence that it is a barrier to entrepreneurship
and inward investment, outstripping the Governmentís income from it.
► Allow smaller companies to compete on a
level playing field.
► Thoroughly review the Business Records
Check scheme given the considerable regulatory burden it can place
on small businesses.
► Place a 2% cap on business rates in
April 2012. Presently, such rates are due to rise by 5.6%, despite
inflation currently falling.
Implement a review of fines for late payment of PAYE
amid concerns that the policy of accumulated fines was not
adequately promoted to small businesses either before or during the
last tax year.
► Work more closely with business groups
to improve HMRCís methods and address the perception that small
firms are being seen as 'easy targets'
for revenue-raising at the expense of longer-term economic
cost of employment
Change the existing scheme of offering a £5,000 NI
holiday for a new firmís first 10 employees. Instead, the Government
should offer the holiday for the first extra 2 employees taken on by
all businesses. Widening the accessibility of the scheme while
reducing the extent an individual business benefits could encourage
much greater take up.
► With Real Time Information and mandatory
online VAT filing on the horizon, the Government should undertake a
stock check of business capability for handling new online services.
A simple, easy-to-use regime should be in place, coupled with
proportionate and lenient HMRC monitoring of the schemes in their
► In the long term, the Forum recommends
that the Governmentís commits to merging National Insurance and
Build on the commitment to encouraging innovation by
introducing R&D tax credits as well as a Patent Box. The measures
announced in the 2011 Budget to extend the rate of relief for small
and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were particularly welcome. This
move, plus the decision to remove the NIC/PAYE cap and the current
minimum spend amount of £10,000, will further encourage SMEs to
innovate, particularly start-up firms.
► Create a tax system which is simple
enough for small businesses to understand. In order to achieve this,
the tax system must be reviewed, and, as a medium to long term goal,
► Ahead of the Budget, which takes place
on 21 March 2012, the Forum is lobbying to make tax simple and
proportionate as part of its Get Britain Trading campaign.