A CORK-based sexual health charity is reporting a five-fold increase in the number of people seeking help, with a sharp rise in those taking tests for sexually transmitted diseases.
The Sexual Health Centre provides counselling, education, testing and support services at their premises on Peter's Street and a new report shows demand is rising rapidly.
Dr Martin Davoren, Executive Director of the centre, said: “The Sexual Health Centre has seen a sharp increase in the need for support, information and advice services throughout the past number of years.
"In 2017 alone we received over 5,000 requests for information.”
In 2014, they answered 607 helpline calls but by last year that number increased to 3,164.
They also operate a drop-in service and respond to queries by email.
The rise in queries in Cork echoes the situation nationwide.
The most recent report of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre shows increases in numbers being diagnosed with chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis.
There have been 268 cases of syphilis diagnosed in Ireland this year, averaging almost 10 a week.
This is an increase of 59 on the same period last year. The figures for chlamydia are also rising, with 3,971 cases so far this year, an increase of 139.
Dr Davoren said they do see some patterns in how and when people need assistance.
“We see a lot of phone calls early in the week from people following their weekend out,” he said. “There may have been alcohol or recreational drug use, they may be worried about a partner that they had over the weekend, someone that they met. They may have been a decision while under the influence of alcohol and maybe not have used protection, and they are now concerned about that interaction.”
“The other thing we see is that modern Ireland has seen a real increase in casual sexual partners and people meeting for once-offs,” Dr Davoren said.
“The Tinders and Grindrs of this world are popular ways for people to meet up and get to know each other. And that is great because it keeps us all connected and gives the opportunity to date in modern Ireland. In the Sexual Health Centre, we want to celebrate sexual health, everyone has a sexuality, it is just important for people to be careful and be mindful.”
Last year the Centre gave out 23,000 condoms for free and Dr Davoren said people can call in at anytime to get a supply. He said condom usage is the single most important way to prevent STIs.
“If people use condoms it greatly reduces the risk or catching or transmitting a sexually transmitted infection,” he said.
“So it is a really easy way to protect yourself. If you use a condom, you are protecting yourself and also reducing your anxiety in the days after being with someone. That anxiety is gone because you know you have been safe.”