Sexual Health Centre
October 31, 2018
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Outline the vision and mission of the Organisation
The Sexual Health Centre’s 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.
The Sexual Health Centre’s mission is to always provide the most up-to-date and comprehensive information regarding the topics of sexual health, healthy relationships, wellbeing and sexuality. To 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 integral parts of life.
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 Sexual Health 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.
How has the Organisation developed and tackled issues?
The Sexual Health Centre was established in July 1987 as Cork AIDS Alliance with a focus on supporting individuals living with AIDS and HIV. The centre provided information, support and respite to people affected by the virus and their families. The centre saw the need for education and open dialogue in response to the AIDS epidemic and transitioned into what is now The Sexual Health Centre. The organisation decided to widen the remit of its service to sexual health in general to support the growing needs of the community. Now the organisation is in a position where it provides up-to-date information, support, education and screening regarding sexual health and wellbeing. In delivering this we offer professional one-on-one counselling sessions to people living with HIV (PLWHIV), people who are facing a crisis pregnancy and people who present with sexual issues. We also hold support groups for PLWHIV, free rapid HIV testing, and free pregnancy tests. Sexual health promotion stands, educational workshops and events in the third-level educational institutions along with our popular free condom distribution and our increasingly busy helpline and drop-in service are integral to our service delivery model. To ensure accessibility to our services we provide outreach work and sexual health workshops for a variety of vulnerable groups and an STI clinic operates on an out-of-hours basis.
Due to the historically reserved mentality of Irish people in matters of sexual health, as a centre we face certain resistance. We aim 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.
What has the overall impact of the work been?
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 the HIV testing in gay bars and clubs and launch the KnowNow testing project for free Rapid HIV testing in collaboration with GOSHH and GLEN. 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.
Other testimonials: https://www.sexualhealthcentre.com/testimonials/
We facilitated the delivery of Bystander Intervention workshops in UCC which are now being implemented university-wide.
The Centre is on the HSE Sexual Health Crisis Pregnancy Programme Advisory Group and the Communications Working Group who provide strategic advice and direction to support the National Sexual Health Strategy (2015-2020), have been involved in devising and influencing national policy on HIV and sexual health since 1990, and sat on the National AIDS Strategy Committee and Sexual Health Strategy Committee.
What makes this Organisation unique?
The Sexual Health Centre is the only organisation of its kind in Ireland, we offer a complete wrap around service in relation to sexual health. The remit of the organisation spans the complete broad spectrum of sexual health and well being whilst other organisations will specialise in a section of sexual health.
We are the only organisation to work with such a wide range of marginalised groups, including people who may be ‘othered’ from society e.g. early school leavers, people living with a disability, people from the travelling community, homeless people, sex workers or escorts, people in active addiction or early recovery and also migrants Working with people from such diverse backgrounds require us to overcome existing social barriers and establishing trust and open communication. We are the only organisation that was allowed to be present at the internal meetings of closed groups like SWAI (Sex Workers Alliance Ireland),so we could access their members directly.
We were the first organisation in Ireland to start conducting rapid HIV testing in a gay club.
We provide crisis pregnancy support and post-abortion check-ups and counselling regardless of the date of the abortion – some of our clients have accessed these services 9 years post-termination.
Starting out as Cork AIDS Alliance, we were the first organisation in Ireland to transition into a service to offer not only therapeutic services but also address sexual issues and dysfunctions, as well as the matters of general sexual health and healthy relationships.
The Sexual Health Centre was recognised for its impactful work in the charitable sector and became the first sexual health organisation in Ireland to win a GSK Ireland Impact Award in 2017.
How can the public support this work?
The Sexual Health Centre is open to public funding. We work with multiple activists of sexual health, HIV, AIDS, rights of LGBTI+ community, sex workers rights, and more. The staff of the centre participate on committees on local, national and European levels. We work with 30 volunteers that provide support for Rapid HIV testing, support facilitators at external events, and operate sexual health information stands. The public can access our services freely and openly, engage in our social media campaigns, support a critical cause at focus and sign a relevant petition.
How is the Organisation transparent and accountable?
The Sexual Health Centre’s financial and governance information is publicly available through the Charities Regulator Authority and can be accessed via the following link: https://www.charitiesregulator.ie/en/information-for-the-public/search-the-charities-register/charity-detail?srchstr=Sexual%20Health%20Centre®id=20078522. The Sexual Health Centre has complied with all the regulations of the authority, for example, uploading Annual Returns to the Charities Regulator registry since 2014.
The Sexual Health Centre has all relevant policies, procedures, protocols and guidelines in place. Our data protection and child and vulnerable adults protection policies can be accessed through our website: https://www.sexualhealthcentre.com/data-protection-policy/ and https://www.sexualhealthcentre.com/child-vulnerable-adult-policy/