Public health doctors in the Mid West have expressed concern about what they say are unprecedented levels of the sexually transmitted infections chlamydia and gonorrhoea in the community so far this year.
According to latest data, Public Health HSE Mid West says they are already reporting record levels of gonorrhoea so far this year and if the current trend persists, record levels of chlamydia are also likely by the end of the year.
Last year 798 cases of chlamydia were recorded - a 20% increase on 2019 – while 188 cases of gonorrhoea were also recorded - a 41% increase on 2019.
These were the highest numbers recorded for both infections over the past ten years.
So far this year, 664 cases of chlamydia have been recorded and 274 cases of gonorrhoea.
Doctors have appealed to people in the region to protect their sexual health and to avail of testing.
Their key message is to use a condom correctly when having sex, to avoid sexual contact if you have symptoms of an STI, and to get tested if your partner has an STI.
Public health medicine specialist Dr Kenneth Beatty described the rising incidence as "an issue of public health concern".
"For males and females, chlamydia and gonorrhoea can lead to painful inflammatory diseases, which can lead to infertility," he said.
"An individual behavioural response is needed to protect ourselves. Wearing a condom correctly and availing of frequent testing is the most practical way to prevent future infections and to protect your sexual partners. Free contraception is available to 17-30-year-olds, and SH24 home testing is also free for everyone," he added.
HSE Social Inclusion GP and UL professor Dr Patrick O'Donnell said testing for STIs is now easier than ever.
"These curable conditions can be present for a period of time without a person realising it," he said.
He added: "There are easy treatments and supports available to a person if they have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection. If you need further advice you can speak to your GP, practice nurse, sexual health clinic or go online to www.sexualwellbeing.ie."