Increasing numbers turned away from sexual health services due to lack of funding

The Fianna Fáil spokesperson for health Stephen Donnelly has said that the 'current lack of capacity' at sexual health clinics will 'undermine HIV programme' announced by Minister for Health Simon Harris.

GMHS Baggot Street

People being “turned away from sexual health clinics” including Baggot Street’s Gay Men’s Health Service (GMHS) will “undermine the rollout of HIV prevention services” according to Fianna Fáil spokesperson for health, Stephen Donnelly.

The introduction of PrEP as part of an HIV prevention programme was announced last Friday, June 14, by Minister for Health Simon Harris after a report by the State’s health watchdog HIQA said it would be safe and cost-effective. However, Fianna Fáil has said that the plan will be “undermined by the current lack of capacity” to cope with patients.

“This is an ongoing issue and one which the staff in the clinic are doing their level best to manage. The HSE must fund additional medical, nursing and admin support for the GMHS”, said Donnelly.

A man who wished to remain anonymous spoke to The Irish Times about being turned away from the GMHS: “There’s just not enough capacity. The staff are great and they work really hard, but they’re at a point now where I just don’t think they can do anymore.”

With a HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) report showing that men who have sex with men (MSM) are disproportionately affected by STIs, and a 7% increase in STI diagnoses overall, Fianna Fáil expressed their concern for the effectiveness of the HIV prevention programme if sexual health services are already over capacity.

Fianna Fáil summed up the situation: “Put simply, demand for the service is outstripping the existing capacity of the clinic. Over the last three years, the number of people presenting to the clinic for STI screening has nearly doubled from less than 6,000 to more than 11,000.”

Sexual health clinics that treat this group require sufficient funding in order to treat patients and to facilitate additional initiatives such as the HIV prevention programme announced by Harris.

Sexual health clinics are struggling to keep up with patient demands for STI treatment, with the announcement of the HIV prevention programme and increased PrEP availability, clinics require greater funding to effectively carry out the new initiative.

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