The HSE recently introduced free, at-home STI kits available to people in Dublin, Cork and Kerry. However, the new service had to be suspended after just 24 hours due to an unforeseen high demand.
The home-testing kits were offered on a pilot basis in Dublin, Cork and Kerry from 5pm on January 5 through the company SH:24. The most recent data on STI rates in the country pinpoints a massive 25% drop in 2020 but experts believe this is due to a rapid fall in testing during the pandemic.
People need regular access to regular STI checks so this initiative was warmly welcomed immediately by students and the rest of society. DCU’s VP for Welfare & Equality, Dean O'Reilly believes that going for an STI test should not be something that is done in shame or only when you feel something is wrong. “It should be accessible for free, and in a way that allows everyone to go for a test every three months.”
According to O’Reilly, the introduction of the home STI kits is ‘amazing.’ O’Reilly also points out that the service reached capacity within a day, “This shows a real demand for the service, especially considering the restrictions on STI services during COVID. I can imagine, too, that many folks who have never gone to an STI check in-person were motivated to try this at-home kit, so it's broadening the consumer base.”
Act Up Dublin, which works towards ending HIV infection, have released a statement after the piloting of the new scheme. They stated that it’s disappointing that “capacity has been reached within 24 hours; this is evidence of the massive demand for this service. Act Up Dublin call on the providers to increase capacity and recommence the service as soon as possible.”
Dr. Derek Freedman, a Dublin based doctor who specialises in sexual health has noted that some people have still been meeting up and been sexually active throughout the pandemic. “While many have been socially isolating, there is also a significant number who have been using apps [such as Tinder and Grindr] to meet people.” This indicates the necessity of making at home STI kits more readily available.
The DCU VP for Welfare and Equality has also stated that he would like to see the remote STI kit service rolled out across Ireland. “At the very least, I'd love to see orders for the pilot counties open up again within the next month or so.”
O’Reilly says, “I'd remind students that you can find locations for free STI checks, even during COVID-19, at dcusu.ie/sexual-health.”
Anyone who is sexually active should get STI checks regularly. According to the Irish Family Planning Association, “many STIs have no signs and symptoms and if left untreated can result in infertility in both sexes and other serious medical conditions.” It is important to follow the advice of the HSE on sexual activity and Covid-19 here.