herald

Friday 24 January 2020

Christmas parties 'fuelling a surge in STDs', medics warn

HIV cases have risen 54pc
HIV cases have risen 54pc

Sexual health centres are bracing themselves for a surge in cases of syphilis, gonorrhoea, herpes and chlamydia, with casual sexual encounters during the Christmas party season now a major factor.

Ireland is in the grip of an alarming rise in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), with the number of syphilis cases having soared since 2014.

All five most prevalent STDs - HIV, syphilis, gonorrhoea, herpes and chlamydia - have risen in terms of annual detection rates since 2013/2014.

The latest Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) figures showed the number of cases of gonorrhoea has soared from 1,282 in 2013 to 2,405 last year, an 88pc increase.

HIV cases, which had been steadily falling over the previous decade, have also increased.

In 2013, Ireland recorded 339 cases of HIV, but that soared to 523 last year, a rise of 54pc.

The number of chlamydia cases has also risen - up from 6,246 in 2013 to 7,931 last year.

Chlamydia remains, by overall detection numbers, Ireland's dominant STD.

Herpes detection rates increased over the same five years from 1,127 to 1,591 last year.

There is also major concern about syphilis - once one of the world's most feared STDs - which has seen a significant increase in detection rates.

In 2014, 272 cases were confirmed. That had soared to 506 last year, an 88.2pc hike and the biggest increase of any STD.

A medical source said one Irish hospital dealt with a case of syphilis that had reached its tertiary or final stage, with severe medical issues for the patient involved.

Most worrying for health chiefs is the fact that the traditional spike in rates now happens between January and March, after the Christmas party season.

In some cases, the rate of STD detection and treatment is double in January and February what it is for the rest of the year.

Of greatest concern for the HSE is that detection rates are rising despite major public health campaigns.

Sexual health centres are now increasing screening hours.

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