According to a report recently published by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), Ireland registered a significant increase in the number of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the last year, specifically chlamydia and gonorrhoea. As the report suggests, among the factors that contribute to the rise in STI cases is the fact that people not using condoms during sexual intercourse is still a “relatively common” behaviour.
The report published by the HPSC gathers data up to the end of September, showing a 43% increase in notified cases of chlamydia and a 95% rise in the number of gonorrhoea cases compared to last year. The groups that seem to be most affected are people aged between 15 and 24 and gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM).
As the report shows, 26% of all chlamydia cases notified this year occurred in those who identify as gbMSM, with the same group also recording 59% of gonorrhoea cases. Moreover, 33% of gonorrhoea notifications came from heterosexual women.
Among the reasons identified in the report for this rise in STI cases are certain behaviours that increase risk, including “not using condoms consistently, particularly when changing partners”. Another factor is that people are often unaware of having acquired an STI because they are asymptomatic.
As recommended in the report, “the key prevention messages are to use condoms for vaginal, oral and anal sex, and to get tested for sexually transmitted infections if people have symptoms, change their sexual partner, have multiple or overlapping partners or their partner has an infection.”
Consistent condom use, particularly when changing partners, is key for prevention.
Used correctly, condoms can prevent transmission of most sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV.
— Man2Man Programme (@Man2ManIreland) September 28, 2023
Other factors that may contribute to the increased number of registered STI cases include better access to testing, facilitated both by the fact that Covid restrictions have further eased compared to last year and that the national home testing service has provided increased testing capacity.
Typical symptoms of chlamydia infection can include pain when urinating, unusual discharges, pain in the tummy, bleeding following sexual intercourse and, for people who menstruate, bleeding between periods.
Gonorrhoea symptoms can involve a thick green or yellow discharge, pain when urinating and again, for people who menstruate, bleeding between periods. However, approximately one in 10 men who acquire these STIs and half of the women do not experience symptoms, which is why testing is so important.
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