Kerryman – Drink fuels rise in sex diseases

Alcohol has been a key contributory factor in the dramatic increase in the incidence of sexually transmitted disease among young people in Kerry and Cork over the past 10 years.

Consultant in infectious diseases at Cork University Hospital Professor Mary Horgan said more than half of the reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases were within the 18 – 25 yearold age bracket and she attributed this to younger people being more sexually active and the effects of drink.

“Alcohol is a key contributory factor. It does tend to cloud people’s better judgement making them do things and take risks that they might not otherwise do in the cold light of day,” she said, adding: “People do tend to have more sexual partners than in the past, something that does increase the chances of spreading infection.”

According to new figures released by the HSE, instances of the sexually transmitted disease, chlamydia, inceased by almost 250 per cent between 2000 and 2010 in the Cork and Kerry region.

The figures showed that in 2000 there were 88 reported cases of the infection across the region, with 303 cases reported in 2010 – a 245 per cent increase.

Although the figures are alarming, they have in fact dropped dramatically from 2005, when the HSE reported 423 cases of the infection in the region.

The HSE also released figures for reported cases of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) over the same period, revealing that instances of genital herpes increased from 29 to 74 – a rise of 164 per cent.

In 2000 there were 474 cases of ano-genital warts, with reported cases peaking in 2005 at 655 instances, a number that had dropped to 567 in 2010. Of the four principal STDs only cases of gonorrhoea actually reduced over the same period from 35 in 2000 to 34 in 2010 – with the lowest number of cases, 18, reported in 2006.

Professor Horgan said the rise in the number of reported incidents could also be attributed to the use of more sophisticated medical equipment which allowing health workers to more readily identify infections.

She said that despite increased awareness of STDs and their causes, many people still remain ignorant of the risk that they put themselves in by not engaging in safe sex by taking precautions such as wearing condoms.

“There still remains a great stigma about STDs, it is not a subject that people feel comfortable about discussing with their peers. This is a shame because all of these conditions are easily preventable and treatable and talking about the issue does help to spread that message,” she added.

Professor Horgan urged people not to “bury their heads in the sand” and to seek out help if they believe they might be at risk of infection.

Source: The Kerryman
Journalist: Bill Browne