STAY MERRY AND SAFE: Minding our Sexual Health this Christmas and New Year |

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STAY MERRY AND SAFE: Minding our Sexual Health this Christmas and New Year

This year, one crucial message stands out: the increasing incidence of STIs including Shigella, particularly among gbMSM (Gay, Bisexual, and other Men who have Sex with Men) and transgender people. Teaming up with HSE Public Health, sexual health and infectious disease experts, we’ve assembled essential sexual health guidance for the holiday period and beyond.

Shigella: Growing Concern

In June of this year, Man2Man, in collaboration with the HSE, launched a pre-Pride campaign to raise awareness about Shigella. Shigella is a bacterial gut infection that can cause severe stomach upset and diarrhoea. Anyone can get Shigella, but sexual activities that may involve contact with faeces (poo) increase the chances of getting infected.

Dr Derval Igoe, Consultant in Public Health Medicine tells us that infection with shigella can happen easily with just very small amounts of the bug present.

“In recent times we have been seeing clusters of linked cases of shigella in gay and bisexual men that are resistant to antibiotics, both in Ireland and abroad. If shigella becomes resistant to antibiotics, the antibiotics won’t work as effectively to kill the infection, and the infection may continue. Our priority lies in preventing cases, early identification, and curbing the spread of antibiotic-resistant Shigella.”

Recent cases have shown a connection between Shigella outbreaks and large-scale festivals or parties in Europe, where various clusters have appeared. We are now asking gay and bisexual men to be aware of Shigella when attending large circuit parties or festivals abroad. These events may involve having multiple partners and there are steps we can take to protect both ourselves and our partners.

Guidance if you are Travelling to Large Circuit Parties or Festivals Abroad

1. Pack condoms, lubricants and any medication before travel.

2. Change condoms between activities and partners.

3. Consider using condoms with your sex toys.

4. Clean sex toys between partners.

5. Wash your hands regularly.

6. Wash genital and anal areas before and after sex.

7. Be aware of shigella symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever, and stomach cramps. If you experience these symptoms, seek medical attention promptly.

8. Before you travel, don’t forget your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). An EHIC lets you get healthcare for free or at a reduced cost in the EU, the EEA and Switzerland. Learn more at If you are travelling outside Europe, it is recommended you have travel insurance.

For further information on shigella visit

STI Prevention

1. Consistently use condoms: ensure you use condoms consistently during sexual activities, particularly with new or multiple partners. Condoms are highly effective in reducing the transmission of STIs. Find out where you can access free condoms at freecondoms

2. If you are exposed to HIV, take action and start PEP. PEP is a short course of medication started within 72 hours of a possible HIV exposure to prevent the virus from taking hold in the body. If your local STI clinic is closed, you can access PEP from an Emergency Department.

Learn more at

3. Regular STI testing is vital. There are various testing options available, including home STI tests, in-clinic testing, and rapid testing. Learn more about your testing options at

4. The mpox virus continues to circulate globally with recent cases identified in Ireland and across Europe. The best defence against mpox is to get vaccinated. Visit to arrange your vaccine.

Look After Yourself and Others This Christmas

Practising responsible sexual health is not only about protecting yourself but also about looking out for the well-being of your partners. This is also true if we are partying and having chemsex. The advice is to start low, go slow, mind yourself and look out for others. The team at MPOWER have devised a Sex Party First Aid Guide so we can all enjoy the party – safe from harm. You can download the guide at

Explore the ongoing situation with Shigella and the efforts of the Incident Management Team in the latest edition of Epi Insight for a deeper understanding.

Thanks to Dr Derval Igoe, Consultant in Public Health Medicine with the HSE Public Health: National Health Protection Office., a joint initiative by GHN and the HSE, serves as the national HIV Prevention & Sexual Health Awareness program targeting gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men (gbMSM) in Ireland.

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