HSE set to launch 500,000 condom give-away scheme
The Health Service Executive (HSE) is set to spend around €50,000 for 500,000 HSE-branded condoms and 250,000 branded lubrication packets as part of the battle against unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
It follows the HSE seeking tenders from firms to produce "Johnny's got you covered"-branded condoms for its National Condom Distribution Service. The condoms are to be distributed free to people.
According to the National Sexual Health Strategy 2015 -2020, STI notifications increased from 3,361 in 1995 to 12,753 in 2013, while HIV cases increased to more than 500 in 2016. The figure was the highest number since records began here and provisional figures for last year showed only a slight dip.
This was in spite of information campaigns around the dangers of contracting the disease.
The Sexual Health Strategy also recorded that more than one-third of women in Ireland have had an experience of a crisis pregnancy, which is defined as a pregnancy "that is neither planned nor desired and is a personal crisis for the woman".
The HSE views condoms as key in limiting the spread of HIV and STIs in men who have sex with other men (MSM).
Last year, a HSE HIV/STI outbreak response group focused on putting in place a single distribution scheme for condoms for MSM with the aim of distributing 5,000 condoms and lubricant sachets weekly.
Underlining the task faced by the HSE in halting the spread of STIs amongst young people, the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre last year recorded an 11pc increase in the cases of STIs in the 15-24 age bracket increasing from 4,677 to 5,200, with chlamydia making up 50pc of cases.
Against the background of increased STI rates, Dr Illona Duffy last month said "while it's fine to be on Tinder etc and meeting up with people for sex, you've got to take precautions and I think that's not out there".
"The National Condom Distribution Service (NCDS) was established by HSE in 2015 to assist in meeting the strategic aims of the National Sexual Health Strategy 2015-2020: to improve sexual health and well-being and to reduce negative sexual health outcomes such as STIs and crisis pregnancies," a HSE spokesperson said.
The condoms are to be delivered by July this year.