This year will see the number of recorded STIs break new records, a sexual health specialist has predicted.
Last year, there were 188 cases of gonorrhoea in the Mid West, while in 2023 there have already been 274 cases.
Similarly, while there were 798 cases of chlamydia in 2023 and so far this year there have been 664.
Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, consultant Dr Aisling Loy said there are “lots of reasons” behind the trend - one of which might be higher levels of screening.
“There is now a rolled out programme nationally where people who maybe haven’t been able to access STI testing before now can and it’s free with SH24 programme,” she said.
“Maybe there weren’t so many services in the Mid West and now there’s people sitting at home going, ‘Goodness, I really would like to get a screening’ and they’re now testing.”
Anecdotally, Dr Loy feels people have more sexual partners than in previous years and the widespread availability of PrEP means there is less fear of catching HIV in the LGBT community - something medics think has led to less use of condoms.
However, condoms seem to have fallen out of favour among heterosexuals as well.
“It’s not just in the groups that would be at risk of HIV,” Dr Loy said.
“I’m seeing it in young heterosexual people as well that there’s just a lack of use of condoms.
“I feel when I’m suggesting condom use it’s nearly like a historical contraption I’m describing to them.”
On Monday, Dr Loy phoned 10 patients to inform them they had tested positive for an STI - whereas previously she usually had only had two or three.
For those looking to avoid a similar conversation with their doctor, she has this advice:
“You can screen and if you have symptoms, the SH24 isn’t the best one to do because sometimes there’s extra tests that could be done in a clinic or with your GP.
“Be aware that there are risks from oral transmission; people think they’re being safe if they’re only having unprotected oral sex but you can get chlamydia and gonorrhoea in these areas as well.
“Use condoms and reduce your number of partners - that will always help as well - and just be aware of the symptoms; things like having a little bit of a pain when you’re urinating or some abnormal discharge or bleeding, these are symptoms and get yourself tested.”
Anyone can boost an STI test free of charge on the HSE’s sexualwellbeing.ie website.
Main image: Man holding a condom package. Picture by: Alamy.com