Dramatic rise in sexually transmitted infections among young people

University students are being urged to practise safe sex following a dramatic rise in the numbers of young people in Ireland diagnosed with sexually transmitted diseases.

The Union of Students Ireland has joined forces with the HSE to launch a safer sex campaign after it emerged that more than 5,200 people aged between 15 and 24 were diagnosed with either chlamydia, gonorrhea, or genital herpes last year.

This represents an 11% increase in sexually transmitted infections compared to 2016.

The sexual health awareness and guidance initiative — dubbed the Shag campaign — is being rolled out on third-level campuses over Valentines Week, with a focus on advising sexually active students to take precautions.

With a tagline of ‘Are You Getting It?,’ the campaign tell students: “If you’re getting it, then you’re getting STI information and testing, getting contraception advice and getting consent.”

Speaking ahead of 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.”

Provisional data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre shows that in 2017, there were 5,200 cases of young people diagnosed with either chlamydia (3730), gonorrhea (872) or genital herpes (598), representing an 11.2% increase of these STIs in the age group (15-24) when compared to 2016 figures.

“We would actively encourage people who are thinking of having sex or are sexually active, to think ahead and practice safer sex,” said Helen Deely, head of the HSE sexual health and crisis pregnancy programme. “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’s Johnny’s Got You Covered campaign team will be on location at IT Carlow, Waterford IT and NUI Maynooth University. The Shag roadshow will continue up to Queens University Belfast.

In 2017, the HSE, in partnership with USI, distributed 40,000 condoms and lubricant packs to students as part of the 2017 campaign.


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