The Sexual Health Centre
December 14, 2018
In your own words, tell us about your project.
Our vision is for a future where sexual health is recognised as an integral part of life, barriers to access sexual health services are removed, social stigma and discrimination are challenged, each individual feels safe to express their sexuality, and people make informed decisions regarding their sexual wellbeing and treat each other’s life choices with the utmost respect.
Our mission is to always provide the most up-to-date and comprehensive information regarding the topics of sexual health, wellbeing, and sexuality, offer a safe space for individuals to express their concerns without fear and get non-biased answers to their most intimate questions, normalise the perception of sexual health and sexuality, and facilitate a nation-wide acceptance of sexual health and sexuality as an integral part of life.
We offer professional 1:1 counselling to people living with HIV (PLWHIV), people facing a crisis pregnancy or sexual issues. We offer support groups and peer mentoring programme for PLWHIV, free rapid HIV testing (we were the first organisation in Ireland to start conducting rapid HIV testing in a gay club), free pregnancy tests and free condom distribution. We provide outreach work and sexual health workshops for vulnerable groups, incl. early school leavers, people living with a disability, travelling community, homeless, sex workers or escorts, people in active addiction or early recovery and migrants, and operate an out-of-hours STI clinic.
In 2017, 5,309 people have accessed our services via the helpline and drop-in service. Over the last 4 years, these numbers have increased fivefold.
Why did you do this work?
There are over 8,000 people living with HIV in Ireland. However, many Irish people lack the accurate information about it (many still believe that HIV can be transmitted via kissing or sneezing!) or the available testing services. Our initiatives like the first in Ireland photo exhibition focusing on PLWHIV, World AIDS Day Run and community outreach aim to address those misconceptions and educate people.
We are also the only organisation to work with often overlooked marginalised groups, including people living with disabilities, migrants, homeless, etc., whom general public usually doesn't perceive in terms of sexual health.
What was the impact or outcome of your project?
In 2017, 204 clients accessed the crisis pregnancy support service.
We were the first organisation in Ireland to provide HIV testing in gay bars and clubs and launch the KnowNow testing project for free Rapid HIV testing. In 2017, our Centre facilitated 506 counselling sessions for people diagnosed with HIV and their families.
“It’s a place where I can walk in without any masks, I can be myself” – Rapid HIV testing at the Centre.
We aim to provide non-biased sexual health education. In 2017, we have supported over 5,000 young people by delivering sexual health workshops in schools. The numbers have doubled from 2014.
In 2017, our outreach workers have delivered 180 workshops to a wide range of vulnerable groups.
“I was never spoken to about sex, it was a very ‘taboo’ subject and would always feel dirty and like I’ve done something wrong and, finally, at 23 I know it’s normal and I got my first test last week” – Recovery Centre, 2018.
We facilitated the delivery of Bystander Intervention workshops in UCC which are now being implemented university-wide.
In light of this World AIDS Day Run, we have launched the first in Ireland PhotoVoice HIV exhibition that allowed people affected by HIV to share their stories in a photo format. The exhibition was covered nationally and received submissions from all over the world, incl. Ireland, UK, Canada, US, and the Netherlands. We also organised a World AIDS Day Run to highlight the importance of regular HIV testing for everyone. Over 320 people took part in the run, with the event being covered both in local and national media.
Do you have any tips or advice for similar projects?
Don't be afraid of quality measurement. It is vital for the progress of your organisation.
Be true to your mission. Even if you face public or society resistance at first. The topic is very sensitive in Ireland, but together we can change the public perception of sexual health as something that needs to be referred to in hushed voices. It is an integral part of everyone's life and open dialogue will help prevent many issues.