Ireland facing sharp rise in sexual diseases

The number of gonorrhoea diagnoses rose by over 50% last year while chlamydia, genital herpes and HIV also became more common

Ireland facing sharp rise in sexual diseases

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Ireland’s sex education system is failing to educate children on the dangers of sexually transmitted infections, according to a leading expert.

The warning comes as figures show sharp rises in a number of sexually transmitted infections (STI) around the country.

The HSE recorded an increase of 51.8% in the prevalence of gonorrhoea - with 1,946 cases reported in 2016.

Chlamydia was recorded as the most common STI in the country with 6,901 cases diagnosed in 2016 - up 1.7%.

The number of cases of genital herpes rose by 7.5% to 1,369 while diagnoses of the parasitic infection, trichomoniasis rose by 43%, with 83 diagnoses.

There were also 455 cases of syphilis recorded around the country.

Social dating apps

The number of HIV diagnoses increased by 5.8% to 513 and Niall Mulligan, director of HIV Ireland told The Sunday Times that online dating apps like Tinder and Grindr are contributing to the rising trends.

He said the social apps are opening up new sexual opportunities that “maybe weren’t there 10 years ago” while complacency about sexual health appears to have grown.

He said many young people either don’t know about HIV and STIs or consider HIV to be an issue from the 1980s and 1990s - an attitude that is not backed up by the facts.

Sexual health education

Speaking to Pat Kenny this morning, sexual health expert Dr Derek Friedman said Irish schools are “certainly not” doing enough to educate children about STIs:

“There should be a very open and realistic approach and I’ll tell you the most open and realistic people are the young kids in primary school at the later stage,” he said.

“Between the ages of nine and 12 in primary school they know everything; they are very open and that is the time you talk to them, before they become emotionally charged and fuelled by their hormones.”

Dr Friedman said the continued rise in HIV diagnoses shows that many young people are not taking the disease seriously enough.

“It might have only been 5% last year but in the previous year it jumped up by 30%,” he said.

“We are seeing between one and two new cases of HIV per day being identified in Ireland; that is far too many.

“This is the problem, people are not aware; OK we can treat it but who wants to take a tablet every day of their life?”

He warned that young people often feel exempt from the dangers of STIs and said a rise in sex-party’s, chem-sex and dating sites are, "high points of danger." 

You can listen back to the full conversation here: