Irish Examiner: Demand for post-abortion support more than doubles
Demand for post-termination counselling more than doubled last year, the Sexual Health Centre in Cork has reported.
The centre provided 157 post-abortion support sessions last year, compared to 77 in 2017, a 104% increase.
Centre manager, Catherine Kennedy, said the increase in counselling sessions occurred at a time when Ireland voted to repeal the 8th amendment of the Constitution.
“We were about to vote in a very important referendum last year and I think the media coverage got people thinking; it got people talking,” said Ms Kennedy.
There was also a 37% increase in crisis pregnancy-related counselling sessions, compared to 2017.
“People knew that they could come to the centre to talk about all their options and that the service was free and accessible,” said Ms Kennedy.
Inquiries about screening for sexually transmitted diseases increased by more than two-thirds in 2018.
The centre, which is open to men and women, received 2,822 inquiries last year, compared to 1,676 in 2017.
It also offers free rapid HIV testing, of which it conducted 809 last year. The tests were provided on-site and in community settings across Cork city and county.The centre provides support and counselling for people living with or affected by HIV, last year holding 479 counselling sessions.
More than half (55%) of the people who used the counselling service were between the age of 24 and 35.
The centre continues to offer an out of hours STI screening service one night a week at its premises on Peters Street in Cork.
The Sexual Health Centre is a not for profit, non-governmental organisation that was originally established in July 1987 as Cork AIDS Alliance.
Catherine Kennedy said the increase in queries about STI testing was very much about more awareness and very much about people needing more testing.
“People are looking at sexual health as part of their overall wellbeing and that's how it should be,” she said.
The centre provides a range of services, including sexual health, crisis pregnancy, post-termination, HIV healthy relationships and free condom provision.
It began providing professional counselling to young people from the LGBTI+ community in 2018.
A total of 84 sessions were provided over an eight week period.
It also introduced a training programme aimed at increasing confidence among youth workers and professionals when dealing with sexual health issues.
Both services were made available through capacity-building grants from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
The centre has eight full-time staff and six Community Employment Scheme workers.