SEXUAL health experts have warned how critical it is that young people are aware of support services available.

It comes amid a steep increase in almost all STIs (sexually transmitted infections) this year in the MidWest and Ireland as a whole.

The most recent statistics show that so far this year, there has been a 50 per cent increase in the rate of chlamydia, a 90 per cent increase in reports of gonorrhoea, a 127 per cent increase in reports of HIV cases, along with significant increases in herpes simplex (22 per cent) and syphilis (24 per cent).

GOSHH (Gender, Orientation, Sexual Health and HIV) is an organisation based in Limerick which serves the Midwest area of Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary. Its vision is to create an environment where the mental, emotional, physical and social well-being of everyone is promoted and sexual rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.

One crucial element of their work is to provide a rapid testing service which tests for a range of STIs including HIV at their premises on Davis Street in Limerick, while there is also a drop-in or postal service where condoms, lube and dams are provided free of cost.

Grainne Woulfe, a Sexual Health Project worker with GOSHH tells The Clare Echo that the organisation’s remit is much broader that this, offering emotional support for people and providing education across the spectrum of gender, orientation, sexual health and HIV in schools and companies in the Midwest.

“We provide a counselling service, we offer one-to-one personal support, and we also provide educational training workshops and information,” says Grainne, who has worked in her role since 2011. “Training programmes within the community could relate to young people, adults, migrant communities, teen parents, also practitioners and professionals who are working with those community groups to build their capacity.”

An increasingly important role for GOSHH is the support and education around orientation along with gender, an area which has been highlighted increasingly in the public domain in recent years with more discussions around gender expression, the transgender community and non-binary individuals.

Grainne continues, “There’s always been a service supporting LGBTI people in the community, it has expanded and grown over the years and we have a number of staff working in that area so people’s awareness is increasing as society has changed. We are finding that more people are reaching out to avail of our training and people are also availing of our counselling and support services too.”

She adds that it’s important to many people within the Midwest community that support services around these areas exist. “There would be – as well as training – social and leisure groups for the LGBTI community, so that might be a range or sporting and leisure activities, book clubs, hill walking, it’s a way of making connections within the community.

“We provide a range of services for young people and their families. We have a counselling service for young people and a peer support group for young people. We also provide supports for parents and carers to help support them in supporting their young person through their issues.

“It’s important for young people to know we exist as a service. We work with people of all ages but we work with young people mostly. That’s changing as society is changing and we’re having more and more discussions around our areas of work, so we support all ages, older people, adults and young people. Sexuality is for everybody.”

For more information on GOSHH services, phone 061 314 354 or visit the website at goshh.ie.

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