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HSE has no recent data on prevalence of casual sex amid STI rise

The HSE does not have any recent data about the prevalence of casual sex in Ireland, even as STI figures continue to rise, Gript can reveal.

The news comes following the revelation last week that Ireland has seen increased STI notifications since the Covid-19 pandemic.

In 2022, reported cases of diseases such as gonorrhoea have seen a 45% spike compared to 2019 figures. Chlamydia has also increased by 20%.

Overall STIs saw an increase of 22.7% in 2022 compared to 2019 figures.

According to Professor Fiona Lyons, Medical Director/Clinical Lead in Sexual Health, HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme (SHCPP), STIs in Ireland are “common,” including herpes and others.

“STIs are common, particularly chlamydia, herpes and gonorrhoea, and increases have been seen throughout the country,” she said.

“However, some communities and key populations are especially affected. STIs continue to disproportionately affect gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, and young people less than 25 years of age.”

According to the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre, “STIs have been increasing in Ireland since 2013.” Even serious STIs like HIV have seen their rates more than double in the past year.

However, when asked by Gript if the prevalence of casual sex in society contributed to the rise in STIs in recent years, an HSE spokesperson replied that recent data on the subject was not available.

“Recent data with the adult population about the prevalence of casual sex and number of sexual partners is not currently available,” the HSE spokesperson replied.

Some alternative theories were offered as to what could be driving the increase.

“There’s probably a combination of factors,” said Dr. Derval Igoe, Specialist in Public Health Medicine with the HSE.

“Before the pandemic we were seeing an increasing trend in STIs and I think we are returning to that trend, that’s one…There’s one other big factor that we think is having quite a big effect and that is the introduction of a free home testing service that’s integrated with the public STI clinics.”

However, this home testing service was only rolled out in October of 2022, and HSE rates in Ireland have been officially increasing since at least 2013, years prior.

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