Condoms are “really important” with STIs surging 23% since the pandemic, according to the HPSC.
The latest Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) data shows STIs have been rising ever since lockdown ended – with chlamydia up 20% and gonorrhoea up 45%.
The report notes that STIs dropped during the pandemic due to, “a number of factors including long periods of national lockdown.”
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Dr Derval Igoe, said the trends are returning to normal post-pandemic.
“Before the pandemic, we were seeing an increase in trend in STIs, and I think we are returning to that trend,” said Dr Igoe.
According to the HPSC report, “STIs have been increasing in Ireland since 2013 when case-based notification of STIs was introduced.”
Dr Igoe said the return to normal socialising is a major factor.
“[There are] increased opportunities for infection and maybe people aren’t always using condoms consistently which would increase the risk of infection,” she said.
She said “the introduction of a free home testing service that’s integrated with the public STI clinic” is the third major factor in the increase in diagnoses.
The free HSE STI home testing service has “generally increased access and it is popular and convenient.”
‘Prep and GBMSM’
The report shows that gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) and young people aged 15 to 24 years were the most affected by STIs.
Dr Igoe said pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is an “important preventive intervention for stopping acquisition of HIV.”
“Part of HIV PrEP [means] people get regular testing, so men who are on this are tested on a frequent basis. So, that allows infection to be detected and treated,” said Dr Igoe.
She warned, however, that PrEP should not be the only form of contraception used.
“It doesn’t stop other STIs, and condoms really are so important in preventing the other STIs,” she said.
“It’s an ongoing challenge to encourage GBMSM to remember that and to continue to use condoms to prevent STIs.”
HIV Ireland offers a free condoms service as part of their Just Carry One campaign. These services are for anyone aged 17 and over.
The HSE free home STI testing service is available to anyone aged 17 or older who lives in the Republic of Ireland.
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