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One-in-seven will contract STI by the age of 24
Irish Examiner
By Mary Regan and Evelyn Ring

ONE-in-seven young Irish people will have picked up a sexually transmitted infection (STI) by the age of 24 years, a new study shows. The survey also found that young people are angry at the lack of services available to them.

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) said it had been calling for a National Sexual Health Strategy that could result in fewer young people presenting with STIs ever since the Government launched the National AIDS Strategy in 2000.

The survey, by condom maker Durex, found a third of 16 to 20 year olds and six out of ten 20 to 24 year olds have had unsafe sex without knowing their partners' history.

IFPA director of counselling Rosie Toner said the political will to tackle the alarming increase in STIs just did not seem to exist. And, she said, the dramatic 12% increase in reported cases of STIs reported by the Health Surveillance Protection Centre for 2004 was probably a huge underestimation of what was happening.

Ms Toner said she expected figures would continue to show a rise in STIs in the absence of a national strategy to tackle the problem. “We need to have a widespread population-based study into the level of STIs so we know what we are dealing with,” she said.

She also pointed out that the views of under-18s would be excluded from the national survey on Sexual Knowledge, Attitude and Behaviour survey announced as part of the AIDS strategy which is due to be published later this year.

The most commonly notified STIs in 2004 were ano-genital warts, non-specific urethritis and genital chlamydia infection. There has been a 2000% increase in cases of chlamydia in the past 10 years.

“Unless we see leadership in the area of sexual health, we will continue to deal with the consequences which include long waiting lists for STI testing and an increase in the rates of HIV and AIDS,” Ms Toner warned.

And, she said, while National Condom Week was targeting young people between the age of 17 and 24, they saw people younger than that seeking support in their clinics.

Ms Toner said young people needed to be able to access services that specifically cater for their needs. “Young people very often put off looking for help because they are fearful their confidentiality will be breached or that they will not be treated with respect and in a non-judgemental way,” she said.

There was also a need for more STI clinics. Ms Toner said there were centres with large urban populations outside of Dublin that did not have any STI clinics.

And, she said, while Durex had been criticised for promoting National Condom Week, it was clear they had identified the need for upskilling young people on how to use condoms because of the worrying rise in rates of STIs among this age group. “They have moved to fill a gap, in the face of inadequate action from Government departments,” she said.