A CORK sexual health charity has led calls for greater funding of STI screening services following reports of gay men being turned away from clinics due to a lack of capacity.
Phil Corcoran, Senior Health Promotion officer/HIV Support Worker at the Cork Sexual Health Centre, said that funding is crucial to ensure the delivery of an effective Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) programme for all.
Mr Corcoran’s comments come after Fianna Fáil’s Health Spokesperson, Stephen Donnelly, claimed that he has been contacted by several people who were turned away from services in Dublin in recent weeks due to a lack of capacity.
Deputy Donnelly said that the future rollout of PrEP will be undermined by the “HSE’s unwillingness to invest in STI screening programmes across the country”.
Mr Corcoran, of the Cork Sexual Health Centre, said: “Inclusive and accessible sexual health services should be available to all.
“Adequate funding of statutory and non-statutory sexual health services is absolutely essential to ensure the delivery of an effective, holistic PrEP programme including education, outreach and other support,” he explained.
The Cork Sexual Health Centre recently welcomed the publication of a draft report on the introduction of a PrEP programme to Ireland aimed at preventing HIV.
The HIQA report confirmed PrEP is safe and highly effective at preventing HIV in people at substantial risk, and also found that the introduction of a PrEP programme would be cost-saving.
There were 531 new HIV diagnoses in 2018, the highest number for a year on record.
Ireland’s rate of new HIV diagnoses is now almost double the European average per head of population.
Dr Martin Davoren, Executive Director of the Cork Sexual Health Centre, said the report was “an important step in the implementation of a national PrEP programme to support the sexual health of our nation.
“PrEP is an effective method of taking ownership and supporting your individual sexual health and wellbeing.”