A new campaign launched for the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), the HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme and the Irish Family Planning Association by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar is encouraging people to ask their pharmacist for advice about their sexual health and contraception needs.
A survey carried out by Healthy Ireland in 2015 found that 17% of those having sex with someone outside of a steady relationship did not use any form of protection. There has been a significant increase in the number of sexually transmitted infection (STI) notifications in the last number of years, rising from 3,361 notifications reported in 1995 to 12,626 in 2014.
Minister Varadkar said, “This is a really welcome campaign which can help us to address the stigma around sexual health and also highlight the dangers associated with the recent rise in infections. It’s great to see the pharmacy sector taking such an active role in improving sexual health and combating the rise in infections. This campaign will complement the Government’s Sexual Health Strategy and Action Plan which was launched last year.”
According to IPU President Kathy Maher, “The incidence of STIs is on the rise and it is critical that people take steps to protect their health and get tested. Your local pharmacist can offer you a private and confidential consultation and can help you arrange to get tested. Your pharmacist can also offer advice on contraception, as well as dispensing emergency contraception if required.”
Ms Maher said that: “80% of STIs are symptomless. For that reason, even if you feel healthy, if you have had unprotected sex, you should ask your pharmacist for advice about getting tested. Early diagnosis is critical in helping to prevent the spread of STIs, as well as maximising the health outcomes of the infected person.”
Commenting on the campaign, Helen Deely, Head of HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme, said, “In order to realise the vision of the sexual health strategy it is important that we address barriers to STI testing to ensure earlier diagnosis and reduce further transmission of infection. Community pharmacies play an important part in delivering knowledge and healthcare in our communities. This campaign to improve engagement on matters related to sexual health is very welcome. The HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme is examining all avenues to improve access to STI testing and we plan to publish clinical guidance on STI testing in various settings, including home based testing, later this year.”
IFPA Chief Executive, Niall Behan, commented, “Sexual health attitudes in Ireland have improved significantly in recent years, but services still lag behind. This initiative is another step towards better sexual health information by highlighting the advice and services that pharmacists can provide.”
Mr Behan continued, “The IFPA is delighted to support the IPU’s campaign with our new infographic on sexual health, which we developed in partnership with HIV Ireland and the SHCPP. This resource has clear and up-to-date information on STI testing, emergency contraception and pregnancy counselling and can be used by pharmacists to signpost clients to sexual health services.”
A list of free STI testing clinics can be found on www.hivireland.ie and many pharmacies now stock home testing kits. The IFPA’s (www.ifpa.ie) clinics in Dublin city centre and Tallaght provide STI testing and contraceptive services on a not-for-profit basis.
Get off the couch with getirelandactive.ie!
Added: 12/02/16 : 07:20:36
How many hours do you spend sitting each day - at work, in the car, at meals, watching TV? You might be surprised to learn that Irish people spend on average 5.3 hours sitting each weekday! Now you can find your own daily sitting total with the sitting time calculator on the HSE’s new website getirelandactive.ie. The calculator adds up the number of hours you spend sitting and evaluates your risk of ‘sitting disease’. The website also suggests tips on how to fight ‘sitting disease’ by building more activity into your day.
Prolonged sitting is as dangerous to a person’s health as smoking, according to researchers at Queen’s University in Belfast. The study found that sitting for long periods of time has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and even early death.*
Since the beginning of the New Year, many of us have taken both small and big steps to get off our seats and get more active and thereby challenge the “sitting disease”. The HSE is encouraging you to continue on your get active journey and not to fall off the wagon now that January is over.
The HSE’s dynamic website, getirelandactive.ie will help you on your journey, providing you with user-friendly advice and help in getting active no matter what age you are or your level of fitness. The content is streamed from the early years right up to older adults with expert advice from professionals such as the HSE’s physical activity co-ordinators.
Colm Casey, HSE Physical Activity Co-ordinator said, “Researchers, scientists and health professionals know that being active on a regular basis can lead us to healthier and even happier lives. Evidence shows that people who are physically active generally live longer, and have a lower risk of suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, some cancers, cardiovascular disease and depression.
However, sometimes people need a little bit of encouragement to make positive changes to their lives. We are hoping that by raising awareness about the benefits of physical activity that we will inspire more people to become active in 2016, continuing on for the entire year and beyond. Log on to getirelandactive.ie to help you get started.’’
The 2015 Healthy Ireland survey found that two thirds of the Irish population do not engage in enough, regular physical activity, particularly women of all ages, those at home doing domestic duties, unemployed people, and older people.
According to Sarah O’Brien, HSE National Lead for the Healthy Eating and Active Living Programme, “Studies show that few Irish people take part in regular physical activity particularly women, unemployed people and older adults.
The HSE’s new website getirelandactive.ie aims to get as many people as possible to become aware of the appropriate level of physical activity for their age. The website offers bespoke content that is motivating, inspiring and engaging, yet supportive of all Irish age groups no matter how active or inactive they are.
“It gives key information on the health benefits of being physically active with motivation tips and a database full of places throughout Ireland where you can go to be active. We know that in a perfect world, we all would have lots of free time for being active.
"However, sometimes life can be busy. Our website aims to inspire you with top tips for easy ways to squeeze in some physical activity into your day. The website is also proving to be a valuable resource for professionals, who are interested in learning about and promoting physical activity as part of their work.”
* Dr Mark Tully, UK Clinical Research Collaboration, Queen’s University Belfast.