Removing the STI-gma: Sexual Health in Ireland

Becky Kelly investigates the increased importance of  sexual health in Ireland, with cases of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) on the rise

The 2017 statistics from Health Protection Service Centre (HPSC) of the HSE have revealed that the number of those affected by Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) has risen again in Ireland.

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As reported by The Independent, 2016 saw a massive spike in STI detection rate, which had risen “by almost 14pc with chlamydia, gonorrhoea, herpes, syphilis and HIV all on the increase”.

A report released by the HPSC earlier this month uncovered that the number of cases in 2017 have risen by 11% on average from last year. The most common infection was Chlamydia trachomatis, which affected 3,730 people between the ages of 15 and 24 years old, up 10.9% from 2016.

“A lot of these infections are asymptomatic and present when a lot of the damage is already done”

Cases of Gonorrhoea and Herpes simplex are also on the rise, increasing by 19.1% and 2.6% respectively from last year. 2017 statistics also show 59% of those with STIs are female.

The HSPC also release weekly statistics of newly contracted cases. The most recent weekly report (18-24 February), revealed that over 1,797 cases of STIs have been reported in 2018 so far, almost 50% of the total number of infections noted in 2017. This indicates the number of those affected by STIs will again outnumber the previous year.


Photo: @rose_mcpose and Cavan Institute

As the statistics show an increasing number of young people as those primarily affected, charities and sexual health groups are increasingly promoting the importance of protected sex.

Just Take One, a national social media campaign launched by HIV Ireland is aimed at 17-25 year olds, and promotes the importance of protected sex for prevention of STIs and HIV. HIV Ireland state that one of their campaign’s primary aims is: “To address issues of stigma associated with condom use, and promote a positive attitude towards condom use as part of healthy sexual relationships.”

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UCD Medical student Emma Lennon says the danger with STIs is late diagnosis: “A lot of these infections are asymptomatic and present when a lot of the damage is already done, and can have repercussions in terms of infertility. If you are having unprotected sex, it is important to get regular checks. ”

LetsGetChecked, are home tests ranging from €50 to €240 and are becoming increasingly available in local pharmacies and health clinics. HIV Ireland are also pushing for increased government involvement in the promotion of the importance of sexual health checks.

Spokesperson for HIV Ireland, Niall Mulligan says that: “we witness a consistent rise in the number of people being newly diagnosed in Ireland with HIV (a provisional figure of 506 in 2017), it is clear we need to be significantly more proactive in our response to this growing crisis.

“HIV Ireland believes it is imperative that the Government prioritises community based HIV testing, the availability of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) within Ireland as a proven method of preventing HIV transmission, and a greater emphasis on counselling and support for people living with HIV.”.
Ireland’s sexual safety website,, lists a number of clinics, support groups, health groups and charities for any persons worried about their sexual health.

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