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Clinical Director of the national SATU service Dr Maeve Eogan told the Medical Independent (MI) that the increase in numbers may reflect a greater willingness among victims of sexual assault to come forward.
For the second consecutive year, there has been a small increase in the number of patients attending the SATUs, with 712 patients presenting in 2016 compared to 685 in 2015, according to the National SATU Annual Key Services Activity Report 2016, published in July.
“It is an increase on last year, but it’s not a dramatically significant increase,” Dr Eogan told MI.
“I don’t think we need to interpret that [to mean] there has been a huge increase in sexual crime. But hopefully what it means is that people who have been victims of sexual crime are more likely to seek care, attention and support than they were previously.”
The report also found that 27 patients chose the new option of secure storage of forensic evidence. Introduced last year, this option is for people who are uncertain as to whether they wish to report an incident to An Garda Síochána.
Separately, 40 patients (5.6 per cent) started post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for HIV following attendance at the SATU in 2016.
Dr Eogan said a PEP service is available to patients at all six SATUs.
Continuous training and monitoring of international guidelines in respect of HIV and other infectious diseases is important at the SATUs, she added.
“For example, we know that there is an increased resistance of gonorrhoea in the community, so that means the drugs that we traditionally use to treat gonorrhoea within the SATU have changed in recent years.”
A HSE spokesperson told MI that its Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme (SHCPP) held a recent conference to help improve awareness among HSE staff of new developments in PEP. The conference was organised in collaboration with the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) and the Infectious Diseases Department at the Mater Hospital, Dublin.