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Increase in men seeking STI testing after Irish Six Nations games

One specialist said he was also expecting a surge in people seeking appointments for STI screening after next week’s Cheltenham Festival.

Image: Shutterstock/Ollyy

SEXUAL HEALTH CLINICS have been experiencing an increase in people seeking consultations in the days after Ireland rugby matches.

A further influx is expected after next week’s Cheltenham Festival – which typically attracts thousands of race-goers from this side of the Irish Sea.

“A couple of days after a rugby international you find that you’ve an increasing number of people coming to see you because they’ve had casual sexual encounters, and they’re concerned,” one specialist told

Dr Derek Freedman — who runs a private practice in Ranelagh and is also attached to the GUIDE clinic at St James’s Hospital — said the sports-fans seeking help were predominantly male, and ranged in age from their 20s to their 70s and 80s.

“It’s often people who have been to away games – and then on the home turf you’ve got a combination of people who are out watching the match and visitors here who are subject to the same lack of constraints.”

Alcohol a factor

Most people who seek help blame alcohol for their risky encounter, Dr Freedman said. And the act of viewing the match itself could also have an effect on peoples’ behaviour.

The watching of a game as physically charged as rugby does release endorphins in the brain – it’s been shown to do this – and this also reduces inhibitions.

While the rugby supporters are generally in their 20s and 30s (with some older outliers) those who seek appointments after Cheltenham are often “older and more settled”.

“Their main concern is that they are bringing an infection back home,” to a wife or long-term partner, Freedman said.

Scores of sex workers travel to Cheltenham every year for the week of the festival. A 2009 investigation by the BBC found that about 70 sex workers operated in the town during the race meeting, in addition to two well-known brothels.

“The people we worry about are the people who don’t come to get checked out,” Dr Freedman said.

They come home and they bring an infection back home with them – and then its only later that they realise they’ve a problem, and they’ve brought that problem home to roost.

Advice time

His general advice?

“My advice would be to watch your alcohol consumption.

Many people say the encounter happened after taking alcohol. Whether that’s true or not is debatable, but they will use alcohol as something to blame. Often, they can’t even remember.

“Basically it’s very important to stress that if there has been a risky encounter, to make sure to get a full examination and testing – particularly before they go with anybody else.

“It’s not just a series of tests. We know that without an examination, up to 20 per cent of conditions can be missed – so they need to be fully examined when they come in for an appointment.”

Dr Freedman has a booklet on what to expect when you go for an STI test. You can view it here. Here’s a full list of STI clinics around the country, from the HSE – and here’s a list of private clinics. 

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