STIs on the rise by almost 16 per cent

Ryan Carrick

Incidents of sexually transmitted infections (STI) increased by almost 16 per cent in one year, according to a new HSE report.

The Weekly HIV & STI Report produced by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) for the fifth week of 2020 revealed that incidents of HIV are up 79.41 per cent, chlamydia by 17.41 per cent, and syphilis by 7.69 per cent compared to the same time last year.

The data, which was collected by the Computerised Infectious Disease Reporting (CIDR), revealed there was a cumulative total of 15,122 of these STIs in 2019 which was an increase of 15.9 per cent rise from 13,047 in 2018. 

Furthermore, the number of chlamydia events rose from approximately 500 in January 2013 to 800 in January 2020 while the number of HIV diagnoses rose from less than 20 monthly cases to over 60 a month in only three years.

As part of KISS Week, which promotes sexual health awareness, the DCU Students’ Union organised a number of events focusing on sexual health including an informal sex education podcast and a sex quiz. 

DCUSU Vice President for Welfare & Equality, Aisling Fagan, said STIs are still on the rise despite efforts across the country to combat this.

“This could be because of misinformation, lack of awareness and students not engaging in the content because it doesn’t seem appealing although it is truthful,” she said. “Students also may not feel comfortable talking about contraception and STIs so we must continue to try and open the conversation and combat this stigma.”

According to a survey conducted by Let’s Get Checked, a health insight and STI-testing company, only 14 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds had an STI check in 2019.

A spokesperson for the firm, Mark O’Toole, said there is a double edged sword associated with this rise in STIs.

“More people are getting checked,” he said. “More people are getting aware to get checked and that significant health problems can arise from not looking after your sexual health.

“But on the downside, this isn’t enough. Our survey showed that 4 out of 5 young people between the ages of 18 and 24 have no plans to get checked for an STI this year.”

On Monday, 10 February,  the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) launched a Sexual Health Awareness and Guidance campaign. USI President Lorna Fitzpatrick says the main focus of the campaign is to promote positive attitudes towards sex and raise awareness of all aspects of sexual health.

“In Ireland, talking about sex can still be considered a taboo subject,” she said. “USI believes it is important to break through these barriers and encourage people to practice safer sex and to look after their sexual health.”

Ryan Carrick

Image Credit: Fshoq