Our report Transforming sexual and reproductive health for BAME communities in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham launches today!
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Our report Transforming sexual and reproductive health for BAME communities in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham launches today!

The Love, Sex, Life partnership, jointly commissioned by the councils of Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham (LSL) today launches a report examining the structural inequalities causing worse Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) outcomes for people from Black African, Black Caribbean, Middle Eastern and North African, Asian, Latin American and other ethnic minority backgrounds in LSL.

The research finds SRH services are far too generalised and not adequately meeting the needs of BAME people, leading to dangerous short and long term consequences. Taking evidence over the past six months, the paper demonstrates that the COVID-19 pandemic has further added to the sexual health risks facing BAME communities, as a result of growing social and economic inequalities. 

The research identifies the inherent structural barriers in SRH services and demonstrates how they are preventing BAME community members from seeking and accessing testing and treatment:

  • A lack of cultural sensitivity: 45% or 66 respondents out of 150 said a lack of cultural sensitivity from doctors deters them from seeking sexual health support.
  • HIV stigma persists: 50% or 73 responses said that people from their community are scared to get a HIV test
  • Shame and embarrassment around sexual health deter people from seeking support: 27% (39/145) cited feelings of shame as impacting how they feel discussing sexual health with a doctor. 

We found that imposed stigma, a lack of culturally specific approaches in SRH services and lack of safe spaces and education are causing greater risk of STI and HIV infection, worsening mental health and late-to-no diagnosis for the BAME community. These systematic inequalities have been exacerbated since the outbreak of COVID-19, leaving BAME community members further isolated and at serious health risks: 

  • 95% of people were not informed about accessing sexual health support during lockdown. Love, Sex, Life’s website has been updated with open Sexual and Reproductive Health  and other related services. This page will be regularly reviewed to ensure all information and contact details are up to date.
  • 20% of people have had their sexual health impacted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic – including access to contraception and STI testing. 

This report is a timely reminder of the range of significant challenges that some BAME people face when trying to take care of their sexual and reproductive health. The Love, Sex, Life partnership is committed to addressing these challenges by providing information, advice and guidance that supports BAME people to take better care of their sexual and reproductive health while working with BME stakeholders and networks, alongside providing high-quality professionals’ training throughout Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham. We will also provide the advocacy, education and awareness that will encourage stakeholders and decision makers to take action in providing more inclusive health services that BAME people can access.

Ineala Theophilus, Service Manager of the Love Sex Life LSL partnership at Brook

Love, Sex, Life LSL is a partnership led by Brook, NAZ, the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust and Shape History, catering to the needs of the communities greatest impacted by sexual health inequalities in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham. We empower people from Black African, Black Caribbean, Middle Eastern and North African, Asian, Latin American and other ethnic minority backgrounds and challenge structural racism in Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services by delivering high quality interventions. 

We create safe and accessible sexual and reproductive healthcare; we tackle stigmas and taboos; and enable culturally sensitive services. We want a future where equity in sexual and reproductive health is realised for all members of the LSL community, who feel empowered to engage and proactively access services that are right for them.

About the research 

This research was commissioned by the Love, Sex, Life LSL partnership, and undertaken by Shape History from May 2020 to August 2020. It included an online survey with 150 survey participants and 21 in depth qualitative interviews with local service providers, local community members and activists.

You can download it here.

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