The 2018 vote to repeal the 8th amendment triggered a surge in demand for crisis pregnancy counselling and post-termination supports, a new report shows.
The Cork Sexual Health Centre (SHC) also recorded a four-fold increase in screenings for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) last year; a sign that people are viewing their sexual health as just another part of their daily health and life.
The details are contained in the centre’s 2019 annual report, which shows a high-demand for post-termination supports which the centre believes may be linked to the 2018 referendum.
The centre delivered 504 crisis pregnancy counselling sessions last year with almost 47% linked to post-termination supports.
This post-termination category alone saw a 1.5-fold increase — up from 157 in 2018 to 236 last year.
Want a closer look? Check out our Annual Report for 2019 below! "During the year 2019, the Centre expanded its extensive list of services and continued to meet the needs of the growing Cork community in a dynamic and responsive manner." - Ciarán Lynch, Chairperson @SHC_Cork.(1/7) pic.twitter.com/2zUVtKBK2G— Sexual Health Centre (@SHC_Cork) September 29, 2020
It included many people who had experienced a termination in the past and who felt encouraged to seek and undergo counselling following the 2018 referendum, the report says.
It delivered 127 support sessions to people living with HIV last year, and conducted over 700 free rapid HIV tests.
Requests for information on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) increased to over 4,000, with the centre providing 275 STI screenings — a fourfold increase on 2018 — with almost 65% of those seeking tests aged between 17 and 34.
“A rise in STI-related queries is an indicator of the wider community’s evolving attitude to sexual health,” SHC’s executive director, Dr Martin Davoren, said.
SHC chairperson, Ciarán Lynch, said the increase in demand for all of its services highlights the importance of widespread accessibility to sexual and reproductive health services.
“In 2019, we saw a rise in the number of people engaging with services for sexual health, post-termination, crisis pregnancy, HIV, sexuality and relationship advice,” he said.
A number of new initiatives were introduced by the centre last year, including a one-to-one mentoring service for people who are living with HIV, which helps those who may be facing difficulties around practical issues such as employment, staying on their medication programme, and asylum applications.
The centre’s peer-led LGBTQIA+ sexual health advisory service was established to create a safe space for members of the community and their loved ones, with 67 support sessions delivered to members of the LGBTQIA+ community in 2019.
This was accompanied by a web portal — www.mysexualhealth.ie — which includes a range of information on sexual health, relationships and wellbeing.
The report also said Cork has now signed up to the global HIV fast-track cities initiative, which it said is implemented soon.
The SHC, which last week launched a sexual health hub in The Hut community centre in Gurranabraher, offers a wide range of services, including counselling, HIV support, HIV testing, pregnancy testing, workshops, marginalised group support, professional training and free condom provision.