Overview and Context
While the issue of sexuality and knowledge and supports for making good choices was frequently discussed in reference to the need to support young people who are having sex and experimenting for the first time, a wide range of Information on sexual health is needed for people of all ages, not just young people. The last whole population survey on the topic of sexual health, conducted in 2006, found that, in Dublin 19% of people wanted information on having a more meaningful sex life and 21% wanted more information on safer sex/sexually transmitted infections (Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships 2006). A 2017 study found that, in Dublin, 24% of the population incorrectly believed HIV could be contracted through kissing and 30% believed this of spitting (HIV Ireland Study 2017). It was also found was that only 11% had ever been tested for HIV in Dublin.
Dublin has higher rates of teen pregnancy and problematic pregnancies in adult woman than the national average. While the rate of teenage pregnancy has decreased significantly across Ireland in the last 10 years, Dublin is the joint 12th highest out of 26 counties, with 4.5 per 1,000 births being to a mother aged 17 or under (State of the Nation’s Children 2016). Additionally, 27% of women in
Dublin experienced a crisis pregnancy (Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships 2006), which is also higher than the national average.
The higher pregnancy rates may be related to the fact that the 2006 Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships found that 16% of people reported the cost of condoms as a barrier to use and 36% stated the same thing for the contraceptive pill. Cost is likely an even bigger barrier for young people which is important because a third of young people (33%), aged between 15 and 17 in Dublin have had sex (State of the Nation’s Children 2016).
The following issues have been raised through stakeholder interviews and focus groups and were then endorsed through interagency workshops, as points needing to be addressed in South Dublin County to improve population sexual health:
- Technology / cyberbullying – Cyberbullying, including the posting of sexual images and videos of young people is a problem. Parents and young people lack education on internet security. Increasing pornography use can lead to unrealistic or inaccurate expectations around sexual experiences and issues around consent
- It’s a sensitive topic for some staff – Service, school and youth group staff often do not feel confident in their knowledge of the topic or the appropriate language to use and can feel uncomfortable talking to young people about sexual health. In addition, some schools are not running SPHE programmes in their entirety
- Increase in STIs – Many young people use the pill rather than condoms and there has been an increase in HIV figures and other STIs in South Dublin
- School connection – Leaving school early impacts young people’s sexual health as the longer people stay in education the longer they are likely to postpone their first sexual experience. Once young people leave school they are harder to reach
- Complex cases – High need families are lacking in family planning education and support. Teenage pregnancy is more complex with young mothers having multiple children
- Hard to reach population – Parents in the Traveller community and Roma community often do not want their children to participate in any sexual health programming that is offered in youth programmes
- Disability – sexual health programmes may not cater to young people with disabilities. Often sexuality is understood from a safeguarding perspective rather than from a normalised sexual health perspective
- The relationship factors around sex are important – there is a need to discuss consent, technology, and a wide range of issues in any youth focused training