Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) appear to be on the increase in Ireland, new figures suggest.
According to the latest provisional data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), there were 12,513 STI notifications last year, a 7% increase on 2017's figure of 11,690.
The biggest increase was seen in cases of syphilis, which jumped by 22%.
The HPSC noted that the highest rate of STI notifications affected two main groups - young people aged 15-24 and men who have sex with men (MSM).
Overall, 49% of all chlamydia cases, 39% of herpes cases and 32% of gonorrhea cases in 2018 were in young people. Meanwhile, where information on how the infections were transmitted was available, around 86% of syphilis cases and 64% of gonorrhea cases were in MSM.
The HPSC pointed out that these figures are preliminary and may change when more details become available later in the year. However, in light of the increases seen so far, it reminded people that the ‘correct and consistent use of condoms' reduces the risk of catching or passing on an STI.
It also noted the importance of getting tested for STIs regularly, particularly if changing sexual partners or after sexual contact with overlapping partners.
Responding to the figures, the HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme (SHCPP) also emphasised the importance of using condoms and being tested for STIs.
"Many STIs do not have any symptoms. If you think you have an STI or you may have been at risk, it is important to get tested and if necessary, be treated. Treating STIs promptly reduces the likelihood of them being passed onto someone else," commented SHCPP lead, Helen Deely.
She said that this is particularly important in relation to HIV, as starting HIV treatment as early as possible helps to maintain health and stops transmission to others.
"We will continue to promote the safer sex message across numerous channels and provide condoms to those who are most at risk. Using condoms correctly and every time you have sex will reduce your risk of contracting an STI.
"Plan ahead and carry condoms with you if you are sexually active. If you have a new partner, it is a good idea for both persons to have a sexual health check-up before having sex without a condom," Ms Deely added.
STI and HIV testing is available for free through public STI clinics. For more information on these, click here
STI and HIV testing is also available through many GPs, student health services and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) at a fee. STI and HIV tests can also be purchased in pharmacies. Some NGO's provide community HIV testing for populations at higher risk of HIV at relevant venues.
For more information on STIs, click here
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