Sexually transmitted infections (STI) are on the rise again with chlamydia and gonorrhoea all showing increases compared to this time last year.
According to figures released by the HSE, cases of chlamydia are already up by 389 when compared to last year. Cases of gonorrhoea are also up by 51 and reported instances of herpes have increased by 45.
In 2017, half of all chlamydia cases, 40% of gonorrhoea and a third of herpes cases were found in young adults aged between 15 – 24 years old, according to the HSE.
“This could be for a number of reasons,” Emma Lynam, a HSE spokesperson said.
“Young people often have more sexual partners than older adults and may be less likely to use condoms, which makes them vulnerable to getting an infection.
“Another reason STIs may be increasing is that there may be more awareness of STIs, so more people are getting tested,” Ms Lynam said.
In 2017, there was a reported rise in the four STIs mentioned above and they have continued to spread widely since.
Chlamydia is the most prevalent STI in Ireland with 7,417 cases last year, not least because the people who contract it seldom have any symptoms.
“Chlamydia is the most common STI in Ireland and a lot of people with chlamydia do not get any symptoms and do not know they have the infection so may pass it on without knowing,” Ms Lynam said.
HIV numbers have also been on the rise with 504 people newly diagnosed with HIV in 2017, similar to 2016 data of 503 new HIV diagnoses.
Provisional data for the first five months of 2018 shows this trend continuing with 212 new HIV diagnoses reported to date, according to HIV Ireland.
Executive Director Niall Mulligan said: “In 2017, HIV Ireland provided free, low threshold, HIV testing to 1,089 people across six different community sites. Unfortunately, we had to turn away a further 384 people who presented for testing because we didn’t have the resources to cope. It is crucial that we ensure access to free HIV testing is widely available across Ireland.
“We know regular HIV testing means earlier diagnosis, and earlier access to effective treatment. We also know that effective HIV treatment reduces the virus in the body to undetectable levels, meaning that HIV cannot be passed on to someone else.”
According to Dr Derek Freedman, the rise in STIs amongst young people can occur alongside a good economy.
Dr Freedman said: “It has to do with the economy more than anything else. When the economy is buoyant and good, people are partying more and there are more sexual opportunities.
“When the economy is good it pulls in people for job opportunities from the rural areas and other countries.”
It seems the numbers will continue to rise as STI testing becomes more commonplace in colleges and STI clinics offer free tests.
According to Emma Lynam: “Regular testing, diagnosis and treatment of those who are sexually active, who change partners, and who are not wearing condoms, will prevent them from passing on the infection to other people.”