Sunday 17 November 2019

Massive spike in STIs in Ireland ahead of peak transmission season

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Ralph Riegel

Health officials have urged people to practice safe sex, as a new report shows an increase in sexually-transmitted diseases.

The spike in STIs comes ahead of the Christmas party season, which is traditionally peak transmission period.

The sexually-transmitted infection (STI) detection rate has jumped by almost 14pc with chlamydia, gonorrhoea, herpes, syphilis and HIV all on the increase.

Traditionally, Ireland records the greatest increases in sexually-transmitted disease detections between January and March – which has been linked to sexual activity over the festive party season.

Ireland has recorded 6,975 cases of STIs so far this year.

That represents an increase of 847, or 13.8pc, over 2015.

HIV is the greatest concern – in 2015 there was a 30pc hike in detections compared to 2014.

So far this year, there have been 326 new cases – 71 more than last year.

Eight new HIV cases were reported in one week alone last month across the country.

Over the first three months of 2016, HIV infections showed an alarming 75pc hike.

The figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre come despite major public health campaigns by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Syphilis, which had been reduced to negligible levels in the 1980s and 1990s, is now beginning to re-appear.

There was a 22pc hike in the number of people treated for it last year.

It is also thought that new cases of the disease, one of the most feared infections of the Middle Ages and Victorian eras, will continue to present this year.

The advanced stages of the illness are very serious.

However, the main STI cases in Ireland involve chlamydia, herpes and gonorrhoea.

Chlamydia remains Ireland’s main STI in terms of overall case detections.

To date this year, a total of 4,271 cases of chlamydia have been treated – with almost 140 being reported in one week alone last month.

The greatest concern with chlamydia is that, in its early stages, the patient may not realise they have the infection.

By the time symptoms develop to the point where the patient seeks medical help, the infection may already have caused damage to the person’s reproductive system.

Herpes detections are also up, while gonorrhoea has recorded the biggest single rate of increase in 2016.

There were 406 more cases of gonorrhoea in the first eight months of 2016 than in the comparable period last year.

Sexual health centres across Ireland are now increasing their screening hours and urged people concerned about possible infections to get checked as soon as possible.

Included in the report was a warning from public health officials appealing to people to follow safe-sex guidelines, including the use of protection  and regular testing.

Anyone concerned about a possible infection should cease all sexual activity until they are fully tested.

Public health experts warned that early detection is the key to more effective treatment and the avoidance of potentially serious long-term health consequences.

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