A NUMBER of people in their seventies are reaching out to the Sexual Health Clinic after contracting STIs.
Dr Martin Davoren said there has been a significant increase in older people visiting the centre with suspected conditions like gonorrhoea and chlamydia.
The clinic offers information, support, and education in the areas of sexual health, wellbeing, sexuality, and healthy relationships.
Despite operating since 1987, Dr Davoren said that dealing with older service users with STIs — infections passed through sexual contact — is a relatively new phenomenon.
“We talk a lot about sex education today,” he said.
“Yes, it needs to be improved but it’s a lot better than what was available 30 years ago.
“A number of people have very little sex education knowledge, so in some ways, it’s not surprising that STIs are on the increase within that cohort.”
He said that everyone should be protecting their sexual health regardless of age.
“It’s important that older people are doing what everyone else is doing and that’s taking care of their sexual health,” he said.
Dr Davoren spoke of how the needs of service users have evolved over the years.
“When you think of Ireland as a society we have changed dramatically,” he said.
“Because of the introduction of divorce in Ireland, people who entered relationships in their 20s are newly single in their 50s and 60s. Sexual health is something that changes through the ages.
“We deal with everyone from the homeless, to the LGBT community as well as older people.
“The most important thing for us is to remain non-judgemental, especially in the area of sexual health.”
He stressed that STIs don’t discriminate, adding: “A lot of us have this unrealistic attitude that this will never happen to us. Our aim is to tackle and reformulate mindsets.”
Dr Davoren explained why linking STIs with the younger generation is a common misconception.
“Sexual health is an aspect of everyone’s life,” he said. “Much of the time when people think of STIs, they think of young people. It’s part of the human condition to compartmentalise people or place them in a bubble.
“However, STI’s don’t do that. They can affect anyone at any time. This is just like your common cold, flu or any other bacterial infection.”
According to Dr Davoren, stigma around sexual health remains a common concern.
“Sexual health still gets stigmatised,” he said. “People still joke about it because they find it hard to talk about, but it’s part of who we are.
“If you partake in any kind of risk-taking, it’s important to take care of yourself.”
He stressed that in recent times, STIs are presenting even more challenges.
“Overtime gonorrhea has progressively developed resistance to the antibiotic drugs prescribed to treat it,” he explained.
“We didn’t have that problem before so there are new challenges all the time.”
Dr Davoren appealed to anyone with concerns about their sexual health to get in touch: “Our aim is to give the answers to the questions that are most personal and most important to you.”
For more information on the Sexual Health Centre visit www.sexualhealthcentre.com. The centre can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 021 4275837. For more information on STIs visit www.hivireland.ie.