Wednesday, 21 September 2022
Department of Health
123. To ask the Minister for Health his plans, if any, to extend the provision of free condoms to all persons under 25 years, regardless of gender, as part of the State’s existing free contraceptives scheme; the estimated cost to the Exchequer of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46172/22]
The HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme established the National Condom Distribution Service (NCDS) in October, 2015. The NCDS functions as a central point for distributing free condoms and lubricant sachets to HSE services and NGOs working directly with individuals and groups who may be at increased risk of negative sexual health outcomes. These include young people; migrants; gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men; sex workers; people living with addiction issues and people living with HIV. Since 2017, the number of organisations ordering from the NCDS has doubled.
The service was extended to 3rd level institutions in late 2019. Third-level institutions can order condom dispensers from the HSE, which enable the provision of free condoms and sexual health information to students on campuses nationwide.
Information leaflets are provided with the condom dispensers, which outline to students how to use condoms correctly, and emphasise the importance of using condoms consistently and every time sex happens. The information leaflets direct students to HSE - led and HSE-funded websites for further information about sexual health and well-being; www.sexualwellbeing.ie and www.man2man.ie.
Since its establishment, the NCDS has distributed 2.6 million condoms and 1.5 million lubricant sachets.
The 2021 NCDS Report was published recently, highlights include the following:
70 organisations ordered over 439,400 condoms. These included:
- 23 public sector services
- 12 NGOs
- 30 third level institutions and organisations
- 5 others
Similarly, 50 organisations ordered 259,603 lubricant sachets. Supplies of condoms and lubricant sachets were provided via one to one sessions, information stands and packs, condom dispensers, training and workshops and outreach activities.
Venues where supplies were provided included third level campuses, social and nightlife venues, needle exchanges, festivals, public STI clinics/ hospitals, the LGBTI+ Pride week, rapid HIV testing sessions, World AIDS Day events and direct Provision centres. NCDS condoms are also available through STI clinics and GPs registered to provide pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention.
It should be noted that, as condoms are not prescription contraception, they cannot be included in the free contraception scheme for women age 17-25, which was launched on the 14th September. It is envisaged, therefore, that access to free condoms will continue to be managed through the NCDS
The National Condom Distribution Scheme is funded under the overall budget of the HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme. As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the deputy directly, as soon as possible, regarding the allocated budget for 2022.
Further expansion of this service will be contingent on the availability of resources, which is being examined in the context of the Estimates process leading to the Budget for 2023.