International public health advisor and consultant with The Hague’s Public Health Department GGD Melissa Diaz visited Saba last week to meet with stakeholders to assess sexual-health issues and programmes. Her visit was a result of the collaboration between GGD Den Haag and the local Public Health Department. Such consultations are implemented on St. Eustatius and Bonaire as well.
Diaz was asked to work with local stakeholders on sexual health, which has been identified as one of the priorities for the islands of the Caribbean Netherlands. She spent the week on Saba meeting with local professionals in the field to see what types of intervention were already in place and how local efforts could best be strengthened.
Diaz consulted with AIDS Support Group Saba (ASGS) to gain a better understanding of the programmes implemented in Saba’s schools and to investigate the potential of incorporating Dutch material. She brought with her intervention kits currently used in The Netherlands, which are deemed to be effective. These are currently available in Dutch, but could also be made available in English. Diaz also met with the Public Health Department, Health Care Foundation, Saba University School of Medicine and Youth and Family Centre.
During this assessment visit she also looked at curative and preventive care for HIV and all Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). She enquired as to how STIs were diagnosed and treated and about the whole spectrum of sexual-health issues involving teenage pregnancy, early start of sexual activity, social attitudes towards abortion and abusive relationships.
In The Netherlands it is compulsory to have sexualhealth education, including sexual diversity, incorporated into the primary-school curriculum. Diaz presented teaching packets developed by Dutch institutions for all age groups, starting with for four- to five-year-olds and continuing up to 12 years. The age-appropriate materials commence with discussions about body and feelings, without introducing sexual concepts until laterdevelopment stages. The higher primary-school forms would gradually approach aspects of sexuality and puberty as well as dangers of Internet exposure and alternative sources of potentially misguided information. The primary-school package also deals with contraceptives and body change in puberty. The secondary- school package is to complement the English language material of ASGS with Dutch multimedia resources. Also discussed was the possibility of a parents’ workshop on discussing sexuality with children.