COUNSELLING sessions for people living with HIV saw a 60% increase in demand last year according to findings from the Cork Sexual Health Centre.
The rise was noted in the organisation's annual report for 2020.
Meanwhile, demand for sexual health support for members of the LGBTI community saw a 37% increase last year. This followed the introduction of a dedicated LGBTI+ sexual health support service in 2019 to provide guidance on healthy relationships, sexual issues, sexual function, orientation, risk, and advice on coming out. The Sexual Health Centre on St Peter's Street in Cork City adapted its counselling services through the pandemic with the use of technology.
It also offered virtual crisis pregnancy counselling, online information campaigns; and sexual health workshops for people from all walks of life.
Chairperson of the Sexual Health Centre, Ciarán Lynch, highlighted the efforts made to adapt their services in 2020:
“Our remote counselling and health promotion services have been crucial to maintaining the community’s sexual health during an exceptionally challenging time for many," he said. “By taking stringent health and safety measures at our premises on 16 Peters Street, we were able to continue providing rapid HIV testing and pregnancy testing for much of the year.” Communications & Engagement Lead, Olivia Teahan, noted the commitment of the Sexual Health Centre’s team in responding to clients’ needs adding:
“While the format of our service delivery transformed significantly in 2020, our end goal remained the same – to facilitate positive sexual health outcomes for the people of Cork.”
Following the first announcement of pandemic-related restrictions, a free condom postal service was launched, along with a number of public information campaigns. The Sex and Love Therapy (SALT) programme, led by Donal Clifford, was among services offered to support people with concerns in relation to problematic sexualised behaviour. A free e-learning platform for youth workers and other professionals, ‘WISE Online’ was also launched back in December by Minister for Children, Disability, Equality, Integration and Youth, Roderic O'Gorman TD. The programme was brought about to aid those delivering education with a focus on sexuality and relationships.
Other projects made possible by the Sexual Health Centre include Ireland's first community-based sexual health hub for young people at Youth Work Ireland Cork's "Hut" in Gurranabraher. This was carried out in partnership with Cork ETB (Education & Training Board)A collaboration with GOSHH (Gender, Orientation, Sexual Health, HIV) and SWAI (Sex Workers Alliance Ireland) saw the Centre produce a COVID-19 information card for street-based sex workers.
To find out more about initiatives under the umbrella of the organisation visit https://www.sexualhealthcentre.com/