Festivals are a perfect setting for informal intercourse however how a lot do revellers find out about sexually transmitted infections, asks Áilín Quinlan.
THE freedom of open-air, all-night summer season festivals gives the right alternative for hook-up intercourse.
However, fuelled by alcohol, or medication, it may be all too straightforward to throw warning — and essential sexual safety — to the wind.
Be warned: The danger of contracting a sexually transmitted an infection (STI) on this nation has not often, if ever, been increased.
Within the first 5 months of this 12 months, the well being service registered a rise of 70% in syphilis, 40% in gonorrhoea and 21% in chlamydia.
In Could, the HSE’s Well being Safety Surveillance Centre stated it had recorded 1,116 new circumstances of gonorrhoea in 2019, almost 40% greater than within the first 20 weeks of 2018, whereas 291 circumstances of the possibly deadly illness of syphilis compares with 171 in the identical interval in 2018, an increase of 70%.
Longer-term evaluation, which in contrast the newest scenario with 2013/2014, charted an much more worrying surge within the incidence of STIs, with the variety of syphilis circumstances alone up by almost 90% in simply 5 years.
These outcomes, from analysis by the Well being Safety Surveillance Centre, confirmed the 5 most prevalent STIs, syphilis, gonorrhoea, herpes, chlamydia and HIV, have considerably elevated by way of annual detection charges since 2013/2014.
The extent of gonorrhoea has soared from 1,282 circumstances in 2013 to 2,407 final 12 months, an explosive 88% improve. In 2013, Eire recorded 339 circumstances of HIV however that rose to 530 final 12 months, a rise of 56%, whereas circumstances of chlamydia have additionally elevated sharply from 6,246 in 2013 to 7,942 final 12 months.
In the meantime, genital herpes charges additionally rose over the identical five-year interval, from 1,127 to 1,594. Concern can be centered on syphilis, an an infection that ought to be eradicated, the place there was a rise of 88%.
Whereas the message in regards to the significance of consent has been highlighted lately, a part of the explanation for the sharp rise within the incidence of STIs is that individuals are much less cautious about having protected intercourse, says Prof Mary Horgan, advisor doctor in infectious ailments and inner drugs at Cork College Hospital.
There’s a necessity for a stronger health-promotion message about the necessity to have protected intercourse, she says, including there’s a mindset that individuals undertake whereas travelling overseas on vacation, once they “depart regular frequent sense at dwelling”.
This concern is underlined by the Worldwide Affiliation for Medical Help to Travellers (IAMAT), which says about 50% of people that interact in new sexual relationships overseas inconsistently use condoms and, consequently, “a lot of STIs happen in returning travellers”.
IAMAT urges travellers to take precautions and to concentrate on the truth that sure STIs could also be extra frequent at your journey vacation spot. It additionally says journey insurance coverage usually is not going to cowl remedy.
Alcohol and drug use make folks much less cautious and extra more likely to interact in dangerous behaviour, says Prof Horgan, who has some unsettling data for many who undertake an informal strategy to intercourse.
“We’ve seen massive will increase in syphilis and gonorrhoea. We’re additionally seeing elevated resistance to antibiotics, and we would attain a scenario the place we could also be unable to deal with gonorrhoea. Folks should be aware of that threat. Gonorrhoea is smarter than us and might evolve a lot faster.”
Due to the roll out of the HPV vaccine to teenage ladies lately — it’s to be prolonged to schoolboys from September — medical doctors expect a dramatic discount within the degree of genital warts, in addition to in cervical most cancers, she says.
“In Australia, the place HPV got here out a decade or so in the past, they’re seeing a dramatic lower within the incidence of genital warts. The HPV vaccine is essential, it saves lives.”
Final 12 months, the HSE launched a protected intercourse marketing campaign to coincide with the massively standard Electrical Picnic competition, following one other vital improve within the prognosis of sexually transmitted infections in younger folks.
Amongst different initiatives, it concerned the supply of free condoms at festivals.
On this context, the recorded will increase in STIs this 12 months, could come as a disappointment, however one other issue could also be at play, says Danny Quealey, medical nurse supervisor on the genito-urinary drugs/STI clinic at Cork’s South Infirmary Victoria College Hospital.
“There’s a perception that STIs are one thing that occurs to anyone else — there’s this fable that it’ll by no means occur to me,” he says.
One of many greatest contributors to the unfold of STIs is alcohol consumption. And as soon as folks have had a couple of drinks, they’re much less doubtless to purchase a condom, he says. “In actual fact, they’re extra more likely to spend cash on a pint than a condom.”
Statistics printed in 2018 present that younger folks aged 15-24 account for 49% of chlamydia circumstances, 39% of herpes and 32% of gonorrhoea circumstances. Additionally, he says folks don’t all the time realise oral intercourse counts as unprotected intercourse and that chlamydia, gonorrhoea and genital warts might be contracted via semen or vaginal fluid.
Condoms are sometimes provided freely at festivals, and there’s a push for folks to interact in protected intercourse, however the actuality is that individuals will drink at festivals and they’re going to take dangers.
The clinic at SIVUH offers with three,000 calls a month and sees about eight,000 folks a 12 months, nearly all of whom are of their 20s.
It offers a free HPV vaccination programme to males aged between 16 and 45 who’ve intercourse with males. Additionally, close to the tip of the 12 months — in keeping with the nationwide rollout — the clinic will launch its pre-exposure prophylaxis programme (PrEP), a HIV prevention programme which is being carried out by the Authorities.
Dublin-based specialist in sexual well being and sexually transmitted infections, Dr Derek Freedman, says sexual behaviour is altering with the instances.
“Most circumstances of STIs come the place individuals are not in regular relationships, though we see vital numbers who go ‘offside’, and are then consumed with guilt and nervousness. Right this moment, individuals are marrying and settling later, and there are lots of separations, so the variety of ‘singletons’ is far higher. And so they want to lead a full, regular life.”
There’s a “lack of worry about STIs” and there’s not adequate details about the topic within the media,” he says.
“It’s not within the public consciousness because it was 20 or 30 years in the past, when HIV first got here on the scene,” he says.
Now that HIV might be handled successfully and simply, folks have misplaced their worry of it, he factors out, including that that is notably true within the teams most affected, males who’ve intercourse with males and youthful folks.
“There’s a focus of an infection in those that have misplaced a worry of HIV. If they’re on efficient remedy, which suppresses the virus to an undetectable viral load, then the virus isn’t transmissible, and they won’t transmit HIV — they will go wild, be extra sexually energetic, take dangers, and catch the opposite infections.”
Such threat takers, who don’t understand their threat and fail to come back for testing and remedy, are a reason for concern, he says.
At a societal degree, intercourse is not considered one thing particular, he says, and consequently has develop into a “client merchandise” for some.
“Folks count on to exit on a weekend to a membership and to seek out somebody to have intercourse with,” he says.
Apps corresponding to Tinder and Grindr could make it straightforward to seek out intercourse.
Whereas these apps might be helpful to assist folks in making contact, they’re a double-edged sword. They should be regulated by way of offering protected intercourse messages and providing reminders in regards to the threat of an infection.
Dr Freedman believes STI clinics ought to be extra accessible, relatively than hooked up to hospitals. He factors to cities corresponding to London, New York and San Francisco, the place clinics have been arrange in areas the place there’s lots of an infection.
“Folks might be recognized and provoke quick remedy. In Dublin, for instance, an STI clinic is required in Temple Bar, he says. “You want the clinics the place the motion is.”
Danger of STIs
Pay attention to the chance of STIs and shield your self.Oral intercourse counts as unprotected intercourse and may end up in the transmission of an STI.The extra sexual companions you’ve got, the upper the chance.Don’t watch for signs as a result of there is probably not any. You probably have any concern, get examined. It’s free.Know who you’re with, get their cell phone quantity, and use safety.
Cork: SIVH Clinic, www.mysexualhealth.ie, zero21-496 6844
Sexual well being clinics for 17-24 12 months olds can be found on the Youth Well being Service at Penrose Quay, Cork, 076-108 4150
Dublin: St James Hospital, www.guideclinic.ie, 01-416 2315