– Release date: 28 November 2003
The Irish Family Planning Association has said that it was participating in Ireland’s first Sexual Health Awareness Week to show leadership and initiative in the promotion of good sexual health in Ireland.
According to the IFPA Chief Executive, Catherine Heaney, “this sexual health awareness week is a welcome step forward. But if the week is to be a continued success into the future, initiative and buy-in will be required from the Government and all of the statutory agencies charged with responsibilities in the area of sexual health.
“Sexual health checks, information on the risks associated with casual and unprotected sex, as well as how people can protect themselves from crisis pregnancy or contracting an STI are all part of ensuring that our sexually active population is a healthy one.
“While the Crisis Pregnancy Agency is now leading the way in helping to bring about a reduction in crisis pregnancy, there is no national leadership being demonstrated in the fight to reduce sexually transmitted infections. The national cervical screening programme does not seem to be moving beyond its pilot stage and there is no apparent focus on male sexual health at any level within our health system.
“For too long, sexual health has been considered the Cinderella of primary care. In some circles, it is still a taboo issue. Sexual health rarely forms the subject of discussion in the Dáil or Senate, even though our rates of STIs are soaring.
“Ireland’s STI screening and treatment facilities are currently under huge strain because of the demand for services. Waiting times for an appointment at the STI testing and treatment facility at St James’ Hospital in Dublin is up to seven weeks. If a person has an undetected STI, they may infect other partners as they await testing.
“In recognition of the need for increased facilities, the IFPA will introduce full STI testing and treatment into its services in the early New Year.
“However, while increased facilities are urgently required, efforts to prevent infection in the first place are equally, if not more, important. Initiatives such as Sexual Health Awareness Week are important in such prevention strategies.
“As this Sexual Health Awareness Week is coinciding with the start of the Christmas Party season, it is critical that people protect their sexual health. People should think twice before they engage in casual sex, if they do, they should use a condom and if there is contraceptive failure, emergency contraception should be accessed as soon as possible.
The IFPA will offer walk-in emergency contraception appointments throughout the Christmas period at its Centre at 5-7 Cathal Brugha Street, Dublin 1 (tel: 01-8727088). Appointments can be made for emergency contraception at the IFPA in the Square, Tallaght (tel: 01- 4597685). For information on family planning services throughout the country, the IFPA National Office can be contacted at 01-474 0944.