Students are being told to wrap it up as STIs rose significantly in 2017
Maybe try getting something a little better this Valentine's Day.
Ahead of Valentine's Day, Irish students are being advised to be careful after sexually transmitted infections shot up by over 11% among people between 15 and 24 in 2017.
The warning comes as part of the Union of Students in Ireland's Sexual Health Awareness and Guidance (SHAG) campaign, which was launched on 12 February in collaboration with the HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme.
The campaign is being rolled out in campuses nationwide over Valentine's week, with the tagline of 'Are You Getting It?' which refers to STI information, testing, contraception advice, consent and of course, the old rumpy-pumpy.
According to the provisional records from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) in 2017, there were 5,200 cases of young people diagnosed with either chlamydia, gonorrhoea or genital herpes, which represents an 11.2% increase of these STIs in this age group (15-24) when compared to figures from 2016.
Speaking about the launch, USI President Michael Kerrigan said: "This year, we’re asking students ‘are you getting it?’ when it comes to STI tests and consent. It’s important that every student who’s sexually active look after their own sexual health. This means getting tested regularly, using condoms to protect you from the risk of contracting an STI."
Helen Deely, Head of the HSE Sexual Health & Crisis Pregnancy Programme said: "We would actively encourage people who are thinking of having sex or are sexually active, to think ahead and practice safer sex. Using a condom will help limit the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection and an unplanned pregnancy. The HSE is delighted to partner with USI on this initiative and the Johnny’s Got You Covered campaign team will be on hand to distribute condoms and lubricant to students."
The HSE Johnny’s Got You Covered campaign team will be on location at IT Carlow, Waterford IT and NUI Maynooth University. The SHAG road show will continue up to Queens University Belfast.
Typically, Ireland records the greatest increases in STI detections between January and March - which is linked to sexual activity over the festive party season, according to Dr. Dominic Rowley, a consultant in sexual health and HIV at the GUIDe clinic, St. James’s Hospital.
“All STIs are on the rise in Ireland," he says. "There is currently an outbreak of gonorrhoea both in Ireland and worldwide, with 78 million people infected every year. The number of Irish people diagnosed with HIV has also increased by an alarming amount with a rise of between 35-50% last year.
“Despite this, there has been very little discussion around the issue, or calls to increase the funding for treatment. This could be due in part to the stigma that still surrounds the issue of STIs.
“If the proper precautions are not taken, and if you don’t seek treatment after risky behaviour, the consequences can be serious. Chlamydia and gonorrhoea can cause infertility if left untreated and diseases like HPV can lead to painful genital warts that can be slow to cure.”