Reduce the Stigma of Regular STI Checks

Sexually transmitted infections. No one really ever wants to talk about them. It triggers awkward silences and avoiding eye contact. Unfortunately, STIs have a huge effect on everyone’s lives, particularly for students. 

Often, STIs have no symptoms at all, however, if they are left untreated, they can cause serious damage to your pelvis, reproductive organs and fertility. 

Advice given by the Dublin Well Woman Centre says that every sexually active person  should get tested every 6 months, or if you have recently been physical with a new partner. 

Stigma often occurs around issues that people are afraid to talk about due to lack of knowledge and fear of others’ judgement. In Ireland, this has stemmed from the ‘sex is bad’ school of thought that was promoted by the Catholic Church. 

There is an assumption out there that anyone who has an STI, is ‘sleeping around’ or ‘trashy’, when the reality is that STIs are more common than most people think. In 2018 there were 2,495 cases of Gonorrhoea and 450 cases of HIV. 

As Ms. Holiday said in Glee, ‘Whenever you have sex with someone, you are having sex with everyone they’ve ever had sex with’.

STIs are passed by fluid but also through skin-on-skin contact, so condoms and dental dams don’t always prevent them. If your partner has a cold sore; it can be spread to the genitals during oral sex. 

If your partner hasn’t come clean about their sexual health, it is putting you at risk. Being open with our partners is the first step of breaking down the stigma that surrounds STIs. 

Most colleges offer cheap or free STI checks. In DCU, a clinic is located on the ground floor of the Henry Gratton building and costs €15 for the blood test. 

If you want to go outside of campus, there are several free STI clinics in the city, such as HIV Ireland on Eccles Street, St. James’ Hospital, and the Mater and Beaumont Hospital. Though these are free, they will only test for the basic infections such as HIV, Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea. 

More extensive and expensive checks can be carried out at your GP, Well Woman Centre or Sexual Health Clinic. A full list of free STI clinics can be found on spunout.ie.

"I got swabbed in a Well Woman centre," student Grace Hickey said of her experience being checked. "It was grand, had no issue, they were really friendly. I was terrified cause I was in 6th year but they helped me relax a lot."

Hazel Lawlor has been tested several times in St. James’. "It’s a lot less scary than I was expecting, quite quick and efficient and all the staff were super sound."

Lloyds Pharmacy Online Doctor have home testing kits that you order online. The standard kit that tests for Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea cost €50, which they send to an address of your choosing in discreet packaging, so no one knows what is inside it. 

If we all take a few steps to look after ourselves and our sexual health, we can break down the stigma and make sex better and safer for everyone.