Valentine’s Day is the day to show your loved one you care. It is also Northern Ireland’s Sexual Health Awareness week, so the Public Health Agency (PHA) is asking everyone who is sexually active to protect their sexual health and that of their partner by being safe and getting tested if they have put themselves at risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).
This year the PHA is highlighting the increase in diagnoses of gonorrhoea being seen in both heterosexuals and in men who have sex with men (MSM). There were 451 new episodes of uncomplicated gonorrhoea diagnosed in Northern Ireland Genito Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinics in 2012, compared with 336 in 2011 – an increase of 34%. New HIV diagnoses have also increased by 17% from 81 in 2011 to 95 in 2012.
Dr Bernadette Cullen, Consultant in Public Health at the PHA, said: “We want to use Sexual Health Awareness Week to remind people of the dangers of HIV and STIs, and the importance of safer sex practices. Untreated STIs can result in serious health issues such as infertility. While it may be thought that young people and men who have sex with men are particularly at risk, the safer sex message applies to everyone.
“We know people may be infected with HIV and STIs without having any symptoms, so it is important to protect yourself and to stop the spread of infection to others. Seek advice from your GP surgery or get tested at your local Genito Urinary Medicine clinic if you have put yourself at risk.”
For information or advice on STIs, or to discuss any sexual health issue, contact your local GUM clinic or your GP. Details about local GUM clinics are available on the PHA’s website at www.bit.ly/gumclinicsni
Further information can also be obtained from the PHA booklet ‘Don’t gamble with your sexual health’, available at www.bit.ly/phasexualhealth