The Students’ Union budget allocated to subsidising the STI screening tests has run out. The Union subsidised 250 checks by thirty euro each this year, leaving students to pay the remaining fifty euro.
Students’ Union President Pat de Brún stated that the subsidy was smaller than in previous years, “we still subsidised [the STI screening cost] this year but we had to reduce the number of subsidies we could give; unfortunately as we’ve said many times before, our main priority is not to let frontline services be affected and unfortunately they are, but proportionally they’ve been less affected than other areas.”
The subsidy expired slightly later in 2011, but this was not due to the amount of funding provided by the Students’ Union. There was a higher demand for STI screening tests this year; the clinics that were run on Wednesday were consistently full, meaning that additional clinics had to be operated on Friday, which led to a substantially quicker depletion in subsidy funding.
Due to budgetary constraints, thirty euro per person was subsidised this year as opposed to forty euro last year. As of February 1st, students are expected to pay the full eighty euro fee for the medical consultation themselves, as a medical card does not cover the appointment. Should the student not turn up or cancel a booked appointment, they will be charged twenty euro.
According to a recent Union of Students in Ireland (USI) survey of 1,000 students, eighty-six per cent were sexually active, with seventy-four per cent having had unprotected sex and seventy per cent never having had an STI test.
This survey was carried out prior to Sexual Health Advice and Guidance (SHAG) week, which took place in many colleges and universities across Ireland, including UCD, the week beginning February 13th. 40,000 SHAG packs were distributed during this week, each of which contained, among other things, information on contraception.
USI President, Gary Redmond, stated that sexual health is an “integral” part of student health, “there has been a dramatic rise in the numbers of STIs reported in Ireland. Talking about sex-related issues is still a taboo subject in Ireland and we want to break through these barriers and encourage people to practice safer sex and to look after their sexual health.”
The Acting Director of the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Program, which supported the campaign, Dr Stephanie O’Keeffe explained that “Research tells us that eighteen to twenty-four–year-olds know about the importance of using contraception, but fail to use it consistently and often take risks, particularly when sex is not planned for … By distributing sexual health information and condoms, we aim to educate, provoke thought and heighten risk awareness among students. It is critical that sexually active adults take responsibility for using condoms and other contraceptive methods correctly and consistently to help prevent an unplanned pregnancy and protect against STIs.”