A Sexual Health Network, aimed at raising awareness of the sexual health services in the region, is to be launched in Cork this week.
Cork will become the first county to have its own Sexual Health Network which is a partnership involving a number of sexual health initiatives and groups across the region.
The Cork Sexual Health Centre, the Gum STI clinic in SIVUH, the HIV clinic in CUH, Cork Sexual Violence Centre, Sexual Assault Treatment Unit, Cork Gay Project, Lesbians in Cork (LINC) and Youth Health Service have come together to establish the network.
It is hoped the network will provide a platform where the organisations can share knowledge and resources and support the client in terms of effective referral to the services they need.
Information will be available online at mysexualhealth.ie and via a billboard and bus shelter advertising campaign being run for two weeks from March 27.
The initiative has been funded by Healthy Ireland through the Local Community Development Committee and Cork City Council.
The initiative will be launched in City Hall on Wednesday, just weeks after it was revealed HIV is on the rise across Ireland.
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.
Manager of the Cork Sexual Health Centre, Catherine Kennedy called for more conversations and greater education on the topic to encourage greater uptake in HIV testing.
“Any increase is an area of concern when it comes to sexual health,” she said.
“More and more young people we’re meeting are completely unaware of HIV.
“It’s completely gone backwards instead of forwards.
“It’s also important for people to have a chat about testing to normalise it.” Ms Kennedy encouraged people to get tested to ensure the disease does not spread further.
“We have free rapid testing here in the centre and also in outreach facilities,” said Ms Kennedy.
“Not everyone knows their status and it’s important that they do.
“The medicine for HIV has advanced so much now that when a person does know they have it, they can prevent further spread,” she added.
“People who know their diagnosis and start their treatment early can ensure they live a longer, healthier life and they don’t have to worry about further spread.
“The diagnosis will stop with them.”