Wednesday 22 November 2017

Leo deletes 'thanks for the condom' safe-sex tweet

Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

What has Health Leo Varadkar so coy when it comes to a message about safe sex?

Last Sunday night, the minister publicly thanked a man on his social media Twitter account for giving him a free condom.

The condom had been handed out as part of a safe sex campaign sponsored and supported by the HSE and Mr Varadkar had received it on a night out in Dublin's Front Lounge.

However, Mr Varadkar had second thoughts about the message and later deleted any trace of it from his Twitter timeline.

Thanking the man, Robert Lawlor - who is former Mr Gay Ireland 2014 - for the contraceptive, Mr Vradkar simply said: "Great to see you in the FL [Front Lounge]. Thanks for the free condom."

But a few minutes later when Mr Varadkar's large number of social media followers began to 'favourite' the tweet, showing their support, the minister removed the post.

Commenting on why the health minister would delete a tweet that let the public know he accepted a free condom, a spokesperson said Mr Varadkar was afraid the innocent tweet might be "misconstrued".

"Robert was handing them out as part of a HSE-funded campaign. It was a government-run initiative as there has been a big rise in STI's over the past couple of years.

"He [Leo] sent the tweet to support the campaign but felt it was better to delete it afterwards in case it was misconstrued."

In May, the HSE put out a tender to purchase half a million condoms and 200,000 packets of lubricant.

The campaign was launched as new HIV cases reached their highest level in five years - with a record number of infections among gay men and a major increase among injecting drug users.

Publishing the worrying figures in advance of Irish Aids Day this month, the HSE's Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) said efforts to combat the continuing rise of HIV infection among gay men needed to be "strengthened".

Advocacy group HIV Ireland said the rise in new infections was a "great cause of concern" and said public debate on HIV and Aids was "being deafened by silence".

The HPSC HIV in Ireland 2014 report shows there were 377 new cases last year, compared to 341 in 2013, a rise of 11pc.

It is the highest number since 2009. There have been a further 168 cases to date this year.

A more detailed examination of the official figures shows 183 new cases among men who have sex with men (MSM), compared to 158 in 2013 (up 16pc) - the highest number on record.

There were 125 infections among heterosexuals, compared to 131 in 2013, which is the lowest on record.

There were also 27 cases among people who inject drugs (PWID), compared to 21 in 2013 (up 29pc). That is the highest number for six years.

The HPSC report said that new infections in the men who have sex with men grouping had "increased threefold" since 2005, but that among 25-to 29-year-olds the rise was "fivefold".

Sunday Independent

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