Durex’s recent “Wrap Up” campaign has revealed that, alarmingly, only 27% of respondents aged between 18 and 24 use any form of contraception against sexually-transmitted infections (STIs). This is in spite of the same study finding that 67% were satisfied in their knowledge of prevention against STIs.
Of those who did use protection against STIs, the study revealed only 37% used this protection every time they had sex. The campaign hoped to motivate and inform young people in Ireland about the dangers of unprotected sex, given soaring numbers of STIs in the 18-24 age group. Indeed, the HSE routinely announce a significant increase in levels of Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea and Herpes in this group from the previous year’s figures. Notably, reports of Gonorrhoea increased by over 50% between 2015 and 2016.
Statistics from 2016 revealed 70% of STIs that year were contracted by individuals under the age of 30. Weekly reports in 2017 have revealed similar patterns, with 20-24 year olds being the most likely to be diagnosed with an STI. Durex’s study found no difference between the attitudes towards the use of contraception of those in long-term relationships and those who were single or in newer relationships. Risk of pregnancy was found to be by far the most common reason people reconsidered using protection.
The findings were clear that Irish people considered themselves to be well-informed about safe sex, but nonetheless, 48% of respondents revealed they had taken a serious risk of contracting an STI. The top three most commonly cited reasons for throwing caution to the wind were ‘confidence the other person didn’t have an STI’ (35%), ‘being taken over by the heat of the moment’ (35%), or ‘simply not thinking about the risk of catching an STI’ (23%). Worryingly, an additional 12% stated it was a risk they were willing to take.
On the study, Dr Lambert, Consultant in Infectious Disease at the Mater Hospital, observed: “The rise in sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Herpes in the past 12 months is a clear reflection of young people’s casual attitude to preventing the spread of STIs. Youths are incredibly liberal in terms of behaviour but the same approach is not taken in terms of carrying out regular STI checks.” Lambert concluded that the findings called for “further education on the matter, and an open conversation when it comes to safe sex, not only with regards to preventing pregnancy but also STIs.”
Condoms, as well as other forms of contraception, are available in the Students’ Union’s welfare office. The Student Health Centre operate an STI clinic on Friday mornings, while the Sexual Health Centre (located on Peter’s Street, around the corner from the Mercy Hospital) is open Monday to Friday.