The Irish Family Planning Association has said there is a need for affordable sexually transmitted infection screening to be expanded at primary care level.

In its annual report, the IFPA reported a 16% increase in the number of screenings it carried out in 2012.

The Association said 2,058 screenings were carried out last year compared with 1,763 in 2011.

The Association's Medical Director said it was a positive trend that shows more people are taking responsibility for their sexual health.

Dr Caitriona Henchion said in order for this trend to continue adequate and affordable STI screening services must be made available nationally.

The report highlighted the barriers in accessing STI screening services for people living in rural areas, and those on low incomes.

The report also found that affordable screening is particularly needed for young people on low incomes, who represent the group with the highest incidence of STI infection in Ireland.

It also showed that cervical cancer screening uptake decreases with age with women over the age of 45 less likely to attend.

The number of people attending face-to-face crisis pregnancy counselling in 2012 increased by 6% from 2011, while post-abortion counselling sessions increased by 82% compared to the previous year.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Edition, Dr Henchion said Ireland now has one of the highest levels of syphilis in Europe.

"Nobody is 100% sure why we have this high rate of syphilis but certainly over the last decade it has peaked on a number of occasions and it certainly is in Europe one of the higher rates.

“A lot of it can be in the group of men having sex with men, it can by heterosexual people as well. It is definitely something we need to be aware of," she added.

IFPA said more awareness has led to increased numbers of people getting tested.

Meanwhile, statistics from the Health Service Executive's Health Protection Surveillance Centre suggest that the number of STIs has decreased.

The latest figures, which are complete until the end of November this year, state that the number of STIs reported is 9,234, while the total number of STI notifications for the whole 2012 was 12,864. 

However, the number of notifications of gonorrhoea increased by 33% between 2011 and 2012. 

The total of gonorrhoea cases in 2012, 1,110, is the highest number ever recorded in Ireland.

Chlamydia trachomatis was the most frequently notified STI, accounting for 48.4% of all STIs reported in 2012.