Irish Examiner: Sex health charity sees surge in enquiries about STIs
A Cork sexual health charity has seen a five-fold increase in requests for support, information and advice, particularly in relation to sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
The Sexual Health Centre, which has been in operation since 1987, provides counselling, education, drop-in, free condoms, testing and support services to over 5,000 clients annually. These services are requested via e-mail, telephone and individuals visiting the centre.
A new report examining the range of services requested through the centre from 2014 to 2017 shows that the number of phonecalls the centre received in that period jumped from 607 annually to 3,164.
In 2015, 497 males and 353 females phoned the Sexual Health Centre helpline. This increased to 1,556 males and 1,608 females in 2017.
The number of drop-ins jumped from 1,176 to 1,321 in the same period, while internet inquiries rose from 116 to 824.
The full STI screening provided is the most common enquiry received and rises year on year. In 2017, a total of 1,676 individuals contacted the centre in relation to an STI screening service. This represented an increase from 622 in 2014. Similarly, over 1,000 enquiries were received in 2017 in relation to STI information, increasing from 135 in 2014.
Since 2014 an increase in enquires related to STI information and contraception has also been noted among women. Men are more likely than women to seek condom demonstrations or free condoms.
However, a similar proportion of men and women contacted the centre in relation to STI screening and STI information in 2017.
The centre offers counselling free to clients experiencing a crisis pregnancy, their partners and family members, those who are post-abortion and people living with HIV, their partners and significant others. The total number of counselling clients for post-abortion counselling and HIV counselling have stayed relatively similar from 2014 to 2017.
In relation to crisis-pregnancy counselling, the centre has provided an overall increasing number of sessions to clients since 2014.
The number of HIV clients has remained relatively stable during this time.
Commenting on the figures, report author Gosia Waldowska described the Sexual Health Centre as “an innovative and creative organisation that facilitates people’s need for clear and unambiguous information and support regarding their sexual health, while advocating for positive social change”.
“This report highlights the impact we are having in the community across counselling, testing, education, and information services,” she said.