STIs on the rise among young Irish people

Megan Jones

Ireland is currently experiencing an increase in the number of sexually transmitted infections with over 8,000 new cases of chlamydia diagnosed since the beginning of this year.

The five most common STIs – chlamydia, syphilis, herpes, gonorrhoea and HIV – are all on the rise in terms of annual detection rates since 2013, according to HIV Ireland. 

Young people aged 15-24 are at most risk of contracting an STI. According to HIV Ireland, in 2017 people in this age bracket accounted for 50 per cent of chlamydia diagnoses, 39 per cent of gonorrhoea cases, and 38 per cent of genital herpes cases.

In response to STI and HIV diagnoses, the HSE national condom distribution service have been supporting sexual health campaigns.

The service gives out free condoms and lubricants to third level colleges, festival and nightlife venues, NGOs and community organisations. 

Every year, the USI holds a SHAG (Sexual Health Awareness and Guidance) week to encourage safe sex practices among third level campuses.

This surge in STI cases is down to more people having unprotected sex and less people getting checked for these STIs.

Irish research carried out by leading condom brand Durex found that 68 per cent of people aged between 18 – 24 have never had an STI check. 

Sarah, a final year student, admitted to being one of the 68 per cent who has never been checked for an STI. 

“I would like to get checked for peace of mind but I’ve just found it really difficult to in the past,” she said. “Everywhere seems to have only specific times for appointments which makes it difficult when you’re a full time student with a part time job,”. 

Currently, students in DCU are offered free “provisional” STI checks. The “provisional” checks involve swabs for females and urine tests for men, which would detect if the person had contracted chlamydia or gonorrhoea. 

A “full” STI check is available to DCU students at the cost of €40, which involves one doctor consultation followed by an appointment with a nurse. This appointment includes blood tests as well as the swabs or urine testing, to detect any sign of HIV, Hepatitis or Syphilis. 

Many common STIs do not show any symptoms. According to St James’s GUIDE Clinic, 70 per cent of women and 50% per cent of men with Chlamydia are asymptomatic. 

A DCU student who wished not to be named spoke about her frustration when it comes to getting checked. “It might not seem like a lot but for a student working part time €40 is a lot of money, especially when you have no symptoms,”.

There are three STI clinics in the city centre which all offer free checks – St. James’ GUIDE Clinic, STI HIV Clinic at the Mater Hospital and the Gay Men’s Health Service STI Clinic. 

However, these appointments are available only at limited times and go by “ticket systems”, requiring people who wish to avail of the services to be at the clinics early in the morning and be prepared to wait in the clinic for a number of hours. 

It is also not guaranteed that you will be seen on that day.

St James GUIDE Clinic has recently offered an online appointment system where you can make an appointment if you have no symptoms. 

However, on the day of writing St James GUIDE Clinic had no available appointments and gives no indication of when appointments will be available. 

Megan Jones

Image Credit: Chloe Rooney