The numbers of people presenting with suspected cases of Sexually Transmitted Infections increased last year in Cork and Kerry.
The figures were presented at a conference exploring the latest trends and issues related to sexual health and hosted by the Cork-based Sexual Health Network.
Aline Brennan of the Department of Public Health in HSE South displayed figures that showed a marked increase in the number of STI notifications in Cork and Kerry between 1997 and 2019, with much more data captured in the reporting process since 2013.
By far the most common STI reported in the region last year was chlamydia, with 1,055 notifications, far ahead of the second most common STI, which was gonorrhoea with 209 notifications.
The rate of almost every STI in Cork and Kerry is below the national rate, with Ms Brennan stating that while chlamydia is "incredibly common", rates in the east of the country outstrip rates in the west.
The rate of chlamydia notifications has been on the rise both nationally and regionally, in the Cork and Kerry region peaking among women aged 20-24 - also the age group with the highest number of men reporting that STI.
Both the national and regional notification rate for gonorrhoea has also increased in the past four years, with data presented at the conference showing high rates of reporting among both men and women age 20-24, most likely heterosexual, and then a spike in men aged over 40, the conference hearing this is likely to be linked to men having sex with men.
Regarding syphilis reporting rates, it is also increasing both nationally and regionally, with the largest number of notifications among men aged 20-24, although last year saw a rise in notification rates in almost every age category.
However, while last year saw a slight rise in the national notification rate for HIV, it fell in Cork-Kerry. The figures showed that of those reporting HIV, 45% were gay or bisexual men, and 41% were heterosexual.
One other STI that has seen a decline is anal genital warts (AGW), which Ms Brennan said was most likely attributable to take-up of the HPV vaccine. Numbers have declined or remained steady in the past five years but there has been a marked decrease in the notification of AGW among those aged 20-29.
"It really seems to have had a great impact," Ms Brennan said.
Danny Queally, clinical nurse manager at the STI Clinic in the South Infirmary in Cork, said the free service sees approximately 10,000 every year for screening and other services, mostly self-referral and with people typically facing a few weeks on a waiting list. He said efforts to improve this include a telephone triage system.
As to why there has been an increase in the number of people coming forward with STIs, Ms Brennan said there are a number of possible reasons, including increased testing such as throat swabs that were not routinely taken before.
Mr Queally said that it could also be a case of giving credit to people for being more aware of STIs, and increased reporting.