Free condoms and lubes will be available in a controlled and supportive setting from Cork’s first sexual health hub which opened today.
Spearheaded by the Cork Sexual Health Centre (CSHC) and opened in The Hut in Gurranabraher in association with Youth Work Ireland Cork (YWIC), the new hub also promote consent and improved communication skills within intimate relationships as it aims to make sexual health information more accessible to young people.
It will serve as the first point of contact for sexual health services for many young people, enabling them to access information leaflets on topics such as contraception, relationships and sexually transmitted infections, and to talk to trained staff who can point them to specific services.
YWIC runs an out-of-school supports project for young people in the area and CSHC will work with them to provide information sessions and workshops on sexual health topics during the year.
CSHC executive director, Martin Davoren, said they hope it will be the first of many such hubs across the county.
“The World Health Organisation says sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships,” he said.
“It shouldn’t be taboo. We can pretend it’s not going to happen, but it is an aspect of our daily lives and we need to create safe, familiar ways to access sexual health supports.
The legal age of consent is 17 and Mr Davoren said the distribution of the contraceptives and lube will be done in a controlled setting by specially trained staff.
People arriving at the hub seeking access to contraceptives will have to have a discussion first with youth workers, and they will also have to watch an animated video using a QR code on how to effectively use condoms.
The chief executive of the Cork Education and Training Board, Denis Leamy, said they were delighted to support the hub programme.
“Facilitating the collaboration of organisations that support young people is crucial in providing the required support directly to the community at a local level. By working together these organisations ensure equitable access to supports,” he said.
YWIC youth worker, Joe Curtin, who works with young people in the area, said it’s great for The Hut and the wider community to have the first Sexual Health Hub open in their community.
“Young people will be able to seek advice and information on a topic that is still sometimes not openly discussed in schools and at home,” he said.
“Young people will also have the opportunity to take part in sexual health workshops that are facilitated by specifically trained professionals throughout the year, and access the other services of the Sexual Health Centre more easily.”
CSHC health promotion officer, Muire O’Farrell, said they hope to work with youth groups, resource centres and outreach workers across the city and county to bring sexual health to young people from Castletownbere to Charleville, Kinsale to Kanturk.
As Covid-19 restrictions have eased, the CSHC, based on St Peter’s St in the city centre, has reopened its free rapid HIV testing service and its pregnancy testing service.