National outbreak of syphilis in Ireland declared

The MPOWER Programme are offering free syphilis testing to gay and bisexual men at their pop-up clinic in Dublin City Centre.

Two men embracing in bed

The HSPC (Health Protection Surveillance Centre) have declared a national outbreak of syphilis in Ireland, adding that a large number of cases may remain undiagnosed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Diagnosed cases are said to be far exceeding numbers seen pre-pandemic, with 242 cases reported in the first quarter of 2021. 91% of the cases were diagnosed in males and 9% in females. 79% of the sexually transmitted infections reported were in Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow.

In response to the national syphilis outbreak, the MPOWER Programme at HIV Ireland have teamed up with public health and the HSE to offer free syphilis testing to gay and bisexual men at their pop-up clinic at the HIV Ireland office in Dublin City Centre.

They shared on social media, “Syphilis is on the rise among gay and bi men in Ireland. It’s easy to get but also easy to cure. Some people get symptoms, but a lot don’t at all. The only way to know for sure is to get tested.

“Getting tested is free and so is treatment if you need it.” To learn more or to book an appointment, MPOWER urges people to check out their website here.

Adam Shanley, Programme Manager at MPOWER shared, “Syphilis has been on the rise for quite a while. In 2019, cases of syphilis had risen by 54% on 2018 numbers, even at that point it was identified as an area for urgent action. While there was a dip in reported cases in 2020, that was most likely due to a reduction in access to testing rather than a reduction in transmission, and that’s backed up by the fact that the increase we’re seeing now far exceeds cases recorded in 2019. It’s for that reason a syphilis outbreak has been declared.”

Shanley continued, “Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It can be acquired through all types of sex, including oral sex, and while condoms offer very good protection against syphilis, it is a very transmissible bacterial infection, and so close skin contact with the syphilis bacteria can lead to infection.

“However, while it is very easy to get, thankfully it is very easy to cure too – particularly when diagnosed early, so accessing testing is really important. Left untreated, syphilis can lead to very serious health complications – so if you are sexually active, particularly if you have multiple partners, regular testing is key.”

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