STI patients ‘walk out the door’ as Ireland amid ‘syphilis epidemic’


A sexual health doctor says his STI clinic has patients “at the door” due to an increase in infections.

This is because there has been a general increase in sexually transmitted infections – both in Ireland and elsewhere.

Dr Dominic Rowley, who is also the medical director of LetsGetChecked, Recount Live lunch they expected that.

“There is one obvious element, of course, because as restrictions relaxed – in our specialty – we expected all STIs to increase.

“We are in the middle of a syphilis epidemic, you actually believe, which is a very big problem.

“So as the restrictions relaxed and people became more comfortable with mixing, social mixing as well as sexual mixing, we would have expected to see that.”

He says all STIs are “exploding” in Ireland right now, with a similar picture across Europe.

“We did a study in Portlaoise in my STI clinic, which is at the door at the moment, we did a study on the first three months of our first confinement in March 2020 compared to the previous year.

“And we actually saw an increase in some STIs, like herpes and genital warts, during the lockdown when people were not supposed to move away socially. [sic].

“There was also a good degree of mixing during the lockdown.”

But Dr Rowley says the high number detected is really a good thing.

“You can also turn it around and say ‘it’s good that we get these infections back’ because they can cause serious problems if left untreated.

“There are two sides to the coin.”

Common symptoms

Dr Rowley says there are some common signs people should watch out for.

“If you have urinary symptoms, such as painful urine, abnormal discharge, pain or bleeding after or during sex, these are the most common signs of chlamydia.

“But each STI has its own unique characteristics – but pain during sex, or pain after sex, abnormal bleeding, and discharge or pain when peeing are said to be the most common for most STIs.”

He says that while most illnesses are easily eliminated, there is greater resistance to antibiotics – especially around gonorrhea.

“The problem is a lot of STIs – gonorrhea in particular – we have a worldwide problem with gonorrhea resistance to antibiotics.

“It used to be very easy; before you only took four pills at a time to get rid of chlamydia – now you have to take a weeklong antibiotic twice a day.

“Still fairly easy to eliminate, but there is increasing resistance to all antibiotics.”

And he says there should be no fear about STI testing.

“For chlamydia and gonorrhea, it’s remarkably simple: for men it’s pee in a pot, it’s that simple.

“And of course, they can use the LetsGetChecked home test if they don’t want to attend a clinic for some reason – but the clinics are not passing judgment.

“And for chlamydia and gonorrhea in women, it’s a simple vaginal swab, which is actually now self-administered.

“The doctor or nurse doesn’t even have to do it, if the patient can go to the bathroom and just take a self-swab.”

STI patients ‘walk out the door’ as Ireland amid ‘syphilis epidemic’

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Main image: An example of an STD swab test. Image by: True Images / Alamy Stock Photo

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