Sexual diseases on the rise in Derry

Western Trust attendees at the CAWT cross border sexual health conference to mark the opening of new EU funded sexual health/GUM clinics in border areas are, left to right, Rory Canavan, Specialty Doctor - GUM, Western Trust; Andrea McCauley, Sexual Health Co-ordinator, Western Trust; Marian Martin, Project Manager, CAWT GUM Project; Prof Wallace Dinsmore, GUM Consultant, Western Trust and Marie Hutton, Head of Service - Public Health, Western Trust.

Western Trust attendees at the CAWT cross border sexual health conference to mark the opening of new EU funded sexual health/GUM clinics in border areas are, left to right, Rory Canavan, Specialty Doctor - GUM, Western Trust; Andrea McCauley, Sexual Health Co-ordinator, Western Trust; Marian Martin, Project Manager, CAWT GUM Project; Prof Wallace Dinsmore, GUM Consultant, Western Trust and Marie Hutton, Head of Service - Public Health, Western Trust.

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Sexually transmitted infections are on the rise in Derry, it’s been revealed.

A cross-border conference has been told that hundreds of patients have been treated for STIs at Genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinics set up across the border region.

The clinics, based in various locations, commenced 18 months ago thanks to European funding for sexual health services secured by cross-border health partnership, Co-Operation and Working Together (CAWT).

To date, 2,343 new patients have been treated in the new sexual health clinics established at Altnagelvin Hospital and Tyrone County Hospital in Omagh.

The latest figures were revealed at a cross-border sexual health conference in attended by representatives from the Western Health Trust (WHSCT).

The latest stats - which date from 2010 - reveal that:

* the number of new HIV diagnoses in Northern Ireland rose by 20%.

* uncomplicated chlamydia infections decreased by 4%.

* uncomplicated gonorrhoea increased by 13%.

* genital herpes simplex (first episode) increased by 18%.

* genital warts (first episode) increased by 2%.

* non-specific genital infection increased by 14%.

Among those who spoke at the event was the North’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael McBride who confirmed that Northern Ireland was “seeing increasing numbers of STIs”.

He added: “One of the main challenges we face is attitudes to sexual behaviour.

“Sexual health is a controversial subject in Northern Ireland. Many people have deeply-held opinions about the best approaches, others are simply too embarrassed to discuss it openly.

“This must change.

“We cannot ignore the rising rates of Sexually Transmitted Infections - this is a major public health issue.”

Marie Hutton, Head of Service, Public Health, Western Trust, said the EU investment had enabled the Western Trust to develop new and additional clinics “so that we can provide better access to sexual health services.”

She added: “Anyone concerned about their sexual health can now access sexual health services locally in Londonderry and Omagh. Significantly, this project has created a border-wide network of services which are fully accessible to people within their local communities and are proactive in promoting the importance of good sexual health.”

Commenting on the new services, CAWT’s Chief Officer, Bernie McCrory, said: “CAWT’s role is to improve access and to facilitate greater integration between both health services in the border area.

“The expansion of sexual health services in the border region is one of 12 cross border services which the CAWT partner organisations are taking forward between now and 2014.

“This is a significant investment in sexual services and will improve the health and well-being of people living in the Southern Trust area.”

Locally, Western Trust GUM clinics take place at Altnagelvin Hospital, the University of Ulster’s Magee Campus and the North West Regional College. All are booked by appointment, except Magee and North West College. Appointments are booked by ringing Altnagelvin on: 028 71611269.