Charity warns over rise in STIs

A women’s health charity has called for the immediate implementation of the National Sexual Health strategy after it was revealed recorded cases of chlamydia increased 32% in 2014.

The Dublin Well Women Centre’s annual report showed 253 positive cases of chlamydia, a sexually transmitted infection, last year. That was the second highest figure recorded in the last 13 years. It said the number of people who had sought testing also hit its highest level ever last year with 5,042 tests conducted in its three Dublin clinics.

The news follows confirmation in recent days that St James’s Hospital was beginning routine testing for HIV and hepatitis B and C for all emergency department patients after a pilot programme found an “alarming” number of diagnoses for the diseases. At least two people per 1,000 were being diagnosed with HIV.

Dublin Well Women Centre’s chief executive Alison Begas said despite increased awareness of sexual health prevalence rates for certain STIs were still rising at an alarming rate and more needed to be done to reduce the spread of infections.

“These results highlight the need to expedite publication of the National Sexual Health Strategy,” she said.

“The Well Woman Centre takes a proactive approach in promoting the availability and importance of testing, however, we are only one service provider, and access to standardised testing must be improved nationwide. These diseases are becoming more prevalent, and we need action from the HSE now.”

The organisation’s annual report for 2014 also highlighted a decline in women attending its free cervical screening tests. It said that, since a peak of nearly 10,000 tests in 2009, numbers presenting for their free smear test had declined year-on-year with 7,198 presenting for a test in 2014, a drop of 26% on the 2009 figure.

“The greatest fall in numbers attending for smear tests is in the 25-29 age group, which may be linked to emigration in this group. The other aspect of note is the reduction in older women attending for testing. The average age for diagnosis of cervical cancer is 44 so it is important this age group is seen,” she said.


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