Recent data released by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) indicates that HIV rates have doubled in Ireland over the past year.
Comparing 2022 data to 2021 data, cases of gonorrhoea have also increased by 92%, chlamydia by 51%, syphilis by 26%, and genital herpes by 22%. Cases are particularly high among young people, and while HIV cases are typically more common among men, one-third of the cases were diagnosed in women.
Dr Derek Freedman, a leading STI treatment specialist, acknowledges that while overall infection rates are on the rise, it is unfair to compare the data to 2021 due to the rare public health circumstances.
He attributes the stark spike in cases to a combination of factors including a decrease in testing in 2021 while many clinics closed in response to Covid-19, and the overall increase in social activities that happened in 2022 after lockdown restrictions were lifted. Still, STIs in people between the ages of 20-24 have increased compared to 2019.
To help reduce a further increase in cases, the public is urged to access PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) which is 99% effective in stopping the virus. While PrEP was made available in 2019, the lack of access to the medication remains an issue.
Another leading cause for concern as HIV rates have doubled in Ireland is the likelihood of under-diagnosis. While the stigma surrounding HIV diagnosis continues to improve, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control estimates that at least one in eight people are unknowingly living with HIV.
We have published our weekly report on HIV and STI cases in Ireland. For the week ending 24 December 2022, we are reporting:
? 286 cases of chlamydia
? 76 cases of gonorrhoea
? 19 cases of syphilis
? 34 cases of HIV
— HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) (@hpscireland) January 4, 2023
Earlier this year, the HSE announced that free at-home STI testing is available to everyone in Ireland. Testing greatly reduces the spread of HIV and other STIs, and home testing reduces the stress associated with scheduling an in-person appointment.
Kits are available in every county in the Republic of Ireland, and anyone aged 17 and over can order a test online. After a quick online screening, the free test kit is delivered to the person’s preferred address. The kit includes a step-by-step guide with video links and all of the apparatus needed to collect the required samples.
After completing the test at home, users can post it back to the laboratory in a pre-paid provided envelope, and results will be delivered by phone or text message within 72 hours.
To order a free at-home STI testing kit, visit sexualwellbeing.ie.
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