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Grave Risk for Youth If 198 Health Centre Closes

Aids Foundation: Grave Risk for Youth If 198 Youth Health Centre Closes

The New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) is warning of serious repercussions for the health of young New Zealanders with the closure of the 198 Youth Health Centre in Christchurch. The 198 Youth Health Centre treats more than 7000 young people every year but will close as a result of funding cuts.

One third of 198 Youth Health Centre’s young patients seek help for sexual health issues, and another third for issues with mental health, two areas for which research shows young people are far less likely to go to their family doctor.

Simon Harger-Forde, NZAF Director HIV Prevention and Communications says, “the young people who are most at risk will simply miss out on health care. Young people have disproportionately high rates of STIs and suicide. Marginalised young people, like gay and bisexual youth, are even more at risk of sexual and mental ill-health and also have lower rates of accessing health care from a GP. Closing the 198 Youth Health Centre means there may well be more young people with STIs and those STIs will go untreated for longer.”

A report published by Otago University’s Christchurch School of Medicine found that the costs associated with GPs and prescriptions, concerns about confidentiality, embarrassment and travelling distances were major barriers for young people in accessing health care. The report also suggested that health care services specifically for young people could reduce emergency department use. Last year, a study published by the University of Auckland found that same/both-sex-attracted students had greater difficulties than opposite-sex-attracted students in accessing healthcare, especially for sexual, reproductive and emotional health.

Harger-Forde concludes, “this is a move that will not save money, in fact it will be very costly. STIs and mental ill-health are issues that endanger the lives of young New Zealanders. The social costs are enormous and so is the fiscal burden to the taxpayer. Untreated STIs and mental ill-health are very expensive in the long-term. We ignore the cost-effectiveness and the demonstrable need for 198 Youth Health Centre at our peril”.


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