July 2007

Third of gay men victims of domestic violence

According to a new study commissioned by the British Medical Association, domestic abuse in the gay community may be on the rise. The study found that 29% of gay men and 22% of lesbians have been victims.

The latest statistics are up from results of a study in 2005 which found that one in five gay men had suffered abuse by an "intimate partner". Doctors at the BMA believe that the figures may be even higher as many individuals never report that they are victims.

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Homophobic bullying 'almost epidemic' in Britain's schools

A major survey undertaken by Stonewall has found that almost two thirds of lesbian and gay pupils, some 156,000 children, have been victims of homophobic bullying. The School Report, the largest poll of young gay people ever conducted in this country, presents a shocking picture of the extent of homophobic bullying undertaken by fellow pupils and, alarmingly, school staff.

The study found that 65% of lesbian and gay pupils had experienced homophobic bullying, and 97% of gay pupils hear derogatory phrases used in school. It also discovered that half of all teachers fail to respond to homophobic language when they hear it.

The full report is available to download at the Stonewall website.

Sexual health check

Both women and men need to take control of their sexual health if they want to safeguard their fertility and long-term health. There's more information than ever before out there, and people are increasingly aware of sexual health issues such as the importance of condoms as protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). But, if there's one message that's important to take on board, it's that problems don't always happen to other people. They can happen to you! I'd urge readers to take advantage of the services out there to help them. So are you confident you are doing all you can to protect your sexual health.

Understand the importance of condoms

Condoms are the best protection against STIs. We're facing an epidemic of STIs at the moment. "Old" STIs such as gonorrhoea and syphilis are on the rise again, as is chlamydia. Chlamydia infection is particularly insidious because, in 70 to 80 per cent of cases, there are no symptoms.

If you're concerned that you might have been exposed to chlamydia, Boots offers a Chlamydia Test Kit for £25 that allows you to take the test in the privacy of your own home. Boots also offers a free chlamydia testing service for 16 to 24 year olds in its London pharmacies. Your GP or local FPA clinic can also help.

Everyone who is sexually active, no matter what their age, should be using condoms unless they're absolutely sure that they and their partners are free from infection.

England goes 'smoke free'

From the 1st July, we can all get a breath of fresh air every time we visit a public place. Whether it's a pub, a football match or a meal out, you can rest assured that somebody else's smoke won't ruin your day!

The smoking ban in England follows hot on the heels of many other smoking bans in Europe and the USA. Closer to home, Ireland has already been enjoying clean air for some time now and recently Wales also began a total smoking ban. It was only a matter of time before England joined the party.

So, as from the start of this month, you can no longer light up in anywhere deemed as an enclosed public place. This includes pubs, bars, clubs, restaurants, bingo halls etc... Some other more unexpected places are covered by the ban too, such as company cars or semi-enclosed spaces such as football stadiums.

What's the penalty?

A lot of people are assuming that their local will 'turn a blind eye' to breaches of the smoking ban. Not so. If smoking is reported in any public building at all, the owner is liable to a £2,500 fine. Make no mistake, a ban really does mean a ban!

How about you personally?

Can you still get away with a crafty fag? For those who are caught with a lit cigarette in their hand, the ban will mean an on the sport fine of £50.

Who is in charge?

Already, thousands of council workers up and down the country have been trained in policing the ban. The Government has given £29.5m for local authorities to appoint and train staff to keep an eye on local businesses and organisations. They have the power to enter any public premises undercover and also to film or photograph the public. The job was given to local authorities so that police time was not wasted.

What about at work?

If you are an employer, you need to ensure that 'no smoking' signs are on show somewhere prominent. You must also take steps to inform your staff and customers about the new smoking procedures in some way, for example via a poster or an email. All current indoor smoking rooms must now be removed. Appropriate shelters should be built outside if you wish to protect smokers from the elements.

As an employee who smokes, you must now ensure you know where you are and aren't allowed to light up and you must stick to those rules. Get caught inside with a fag and a £50 fine could soon be yours!

How do I report an offence?

A telephone line (0800 587 1667) will be in operation from 1st July 2007 to enable members of the public to report possible breaches in the law. This information will be passed to local councils to follow up as appropriate.

Where can I find out more?

You can find out everything you need to know about the ban on the official NHS Smoke Free England website:

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