The Sexual Health Centre

December 14, 2018

In your own words, tell us about your project.
The Sexual Health Centre is a Not for Profit, Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) that was established in July 1987 as Cork AIDS Alliance.

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?
Due to the historically reserved mentality of Irish people in matters of sexual health, many issues are "hushed" or not addressed and as a centre we face certain resistance. Despite that, we believe that it's vitally important to deliver the message of sexual health as being an integral part of everyone’s life, educate people and increase the awareness of non-biased and non-judgemental support available at the Centre. The lack of communication and appropriate sexual health education leads to stigma discrimination, e.g. towards PLWHIV and the LGBTI+ community and potentially preventable issues like crisis pregnancies and STIs. At the Sexual Health Centre, we promote open dialogue and positive sexual health and bring public awareness to the existing stigma and discrimination. We aim to change the public perception of sexual health as a matter of sexual issues, dysfunctions, or STIs, but rather an integral part of everyone’s lives. At the Centre, we promote the concept of safer sex and healthy relationships, offer non-biased sexual health education, and offer a safe space for individuals to talk openly about their sexual health, sexuality, healthy relationships and wellbeing.

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, 5,309 people have accessed the Sexual Health Centre’s services via the helpline and drop-in service. Over the last 4 years, the numbers have increased fivefold.

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?
Aim for continuous innovation. Seek new ways to improve your services and address the areas that haven't been addressed before.

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.
Which Sustainable Development Goals does your work link to?
Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Location of Project
Cork, Ireland
Contact Person
Nadia Reckmann
Email Address
Contact Number
021 427 5837