Dating apps and HIV medication PrEP are to blame for a 76% increase in STIs, a sexual health doctor has said.
New data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPRC) shows that the number sexually transmitted infections detected in Ireland has surged 76% this year.
According to the figures, the centre was notified of 3,201 cases in the first seven weeks of the year – up from 1,814 in the same period in 2022.
Chlamydia, genital herpes and gonorrhoea are the most common STIs but there was also a 50% increase in the number of people testing positive for HIV.
Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, STI specialist Dr Derek Freedman attributed to the increase to a number of factors.
“One major factor of course is that a year ago, there was COVID and all the COVID restrictions and people were afraid to go out and meet - that is one aspect,” he said.
“The other aspect is that there’s a lot more testing available with online testing [orders] and this means that people can have more rapid access.”
Since November 2019, PrEP (Pre Exposure Prophylaxis) has been prescribed for free to those who meet the clinical eligibility requirements.
It has been hailed as a gamechanger in the fight to eradicate HIV, as anyone taking the medication cannot contract the virus.
Dr Freedman believes some people prescribed the medication mistakenly believe they no longer have to practise safe sex.
“I think people who are using PrEP, there’s a potential for risk taking certainly,” he said.
“Condoms may not be part of the activity and the prevalence of the dating apps means meeting people very quickly and easily.
“I often say to people who use dating apps - ‘No sex on the first night, get to know the person first and look for a bit of quality in your sex life rather than a quick bang.’”
STI screening is offered by the HSE on a free and confidential basis.
Main image: Popular dating apps on an iPhone.