More people are getting tested for sexually transmitted infections at a time when screening services nationally are inadequate, according to the Irish Family Planning Association.
There was a 16% increase in the number of STI screenings undertaken at IFPA clinics last year, compared to 2011.
The IFPA said the increased number of STI screenings showed there was a need for improved national services.
IFPA medical director Dr Caitriona Henchion said more people were taking responsibility for their sexual health but, for this positive trend to continue, adequate and affordable STI screening services must be available.
The IFPA’s 2012 report, launched today, said people in rural areas found it difficult to access screening services and people on low incomes had to pay for a full screening at primary care level. The report says affordable screening is particularly needed for people on low incomes, who represent the group with the highest incidence of STI infection in Ireland.
“Despite the growing importance of sexual health care for people and the increase in STI rates in Ireland, as highlighted by the current HSE awareness campaign on gonorrhoea, screening services nationally remain inadequate,” said Dr Henchion.
“Affordable and comprehensive screening should be available at primary care level. This would ensure that people across Ireland have access to the sexual health services they need.”
Dr Henchion said the forthcoming National Sexual Health Strategy presented an ideal opportunity for a nationwide STI screening service. The report shows cervical cancer screening uptake decreases with age. Women over 45 are less likely to attend for screening than younger women.
It points out that while abnormal cervical screen results are less common in women aged over 45, 8% received abnormal results, underlining the need for women to continue to be screened until 60.
The number of people attending for crisis pregnancy counselling increased by 6% from 2011. Post-abortion counselling sessions rose 82% and 18% of those attending were new clients.
Women attending for post-termination counselling represent 44% of the services’s clients. Last year’s surge in demand is due to a number of reasons, including women needing ongoing support, increased awareness and confidence in the service.
About 3% of the women who availed of the IFPA’s crisis pregnancy services had received a foetal abnormality diagnosis.
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