– Release date: 19 December 2002
The Irish Family Planning Association has called on the Minister for a national campaign to help reduce the instances of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies. The call was made during the launch of the IFPA's Christmas Safe Sex Message today.
According to the IFPA's Chief Executive, Catherine Heaney, "sexual health promotion is virtually absent from national politics. Yet, the levels of sexually transmitted infections continue to soar and crisis pregnancies are increasing, particularly among young women and teenagers."
The latest statistics for sexually transmitted infections show there were 8,869 cases notified in 2000, which represented an increase of 26.8% on the previous year.
"While some work is being done at health board level to promote more responsible sexual behaviour, it is time that the Minister for Health and his Department took more responsibility for this work. National leadership on the issue is required to ensure that the safe sex message reaches all of the sexually active population.
"In particular, a high profile media and messaging campaign in the run-up to Christmas is needed to warn of the risks of casual, unprotected sex and to promote safe sex.
"Condom usage should also be more actively promoted to help reduce the instances of STIs. For teenagers, the lack of confidence about using a condom, coupled with their retail cost, means that many will have unprotected sex. Distributing free condoms at taxi ranks over the Christmas period and at major music and sporting events throughout the year would help promote the safe sex message.
"The IFPA advocated the use of price controls and state purchasing schemes to reduce the price of condoms. A box of 12 condoms in a leading pharmacy varies from just over 11euro to over 19euro, depending on type and brand.
"Each Christmas, the IFPA experiences an increase in the number of clients seeking emergency contraception at it clinics. Straight after Christmas, there is also an increase in demand for crisis pregnancy counselling.
"Already this festive season, we have noticed an increase in demand for emergency contraception. Last weekend, demand for emergency contraception at our clinics rose by over 25% on a normal weekend. We expect the demand for this service will increase even further over the coming days.
"During the partying season people should think twice before engaging in casual, unprotected sex. If they decide to have sex, they should use a condom. A condom should be used during casual sex even if another form of contraception is also being used, for example the pill.
"As long as condoms are used properly, they provide the most reliable means of protection against STIs. It is important to use good quality condoms and always check the expiry date on the packet before use.
"However, even when using contraception, accidents can happen especially when judgement is clouded because of alcohol use. In such an event it is important to access the morning after pill if an unplanned pregnancy is to be avoided.
"The morning after pill is an effective method of emergency post-coital contraception and can be used up to 72 hours after unprotected intercourse or contraceptive failure. It is available from most GPs and Family Planning Clinics and nobody should be embarrassed to ask for it.
"The IFPA's clinics in Cathal Brugha Street and Tallaght will be closed on Christmas Day, St Stephen’s Day and on New Year's Day. During the Christmas period, there will be a walk in emergency contraception clinic, so no appointment is necessary.
The IFPA's national pregnancy helpline will operate from 10am – 1pm over the Christmas period, except on Sundays and bank holidays (tel: 1850 49 50 51).