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Sexual Health Services for Young People

15th August 2023

C-Card logo - Northern Ireland Condom Distribution Scheme

A new service for young people to improve their sexual health and wellbeing and help reduce the number of new sexually transmitted infections diagnoses in Northern Ireland has been launched.

The Public Health Agency ‘C-Card Scheme’ is a confidential sexual health service for young people aged 16-25 years old.

Barbara Porter, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager at the PHA, said: “Once registered, each young person will receive a ‘credit card-style card’ that will enable them to avail of free condoms and lubricant, information support and advice at convenient times and in a variety of locations across Northern Ireland including many youth organisations.

“When used correctly during sexual interactions, condoms are the only type of protection that help prevent both STIs and pregnancy. As STIs continue to rise in Northern Ireland we hope that this service will reduce the number of young people contracting unwanted infections and having unplanned pregnancy.

“We also know that for some young people it can be embarrassing to walk into their local shop and purchase condoms. By providing this service in a range of convenient locations and ensuring it is discreet and confidential, young people can avail of access to sexual health services without feeling awkward.”

Once a C-Card is issued, the young person is entitled to an agreed number of supplies  for free. Supplies include condoms and lubricant, written instructions and details of local sexual and reproductive health services. After receiving supplies an agreed number of times, the young person must return to the registration site where their circumstances, sexual health and medical needs will be reviewed.

To find out how to apply for a card or where your nearest participating youth organisation see the Sexual Health NI website.

Barbara concluded: “If you are sexually active, using condoms is an important part of taking care of your sexual health.

“People with STIs don’t always have symptoms, but by having unprotected sex, you could effectively be sleeping with everyone your partner has ever slept with, putting your at risk of getting an STI. Therefore, we are urging people to always use a condom. If there is a chance you have contracted an STI, get tested.”

It is also important to know how to look after your sexual health, for example:

  • Having the knowledge and confidence to make good choices about if and when to have sex, and being able to talk about contraception and condoms.
  • Being aware of how alcohol and drugs can affect your decision making. Too much alcohol or any drug use can mean you might take more risks. This includes having sex when you normally wouldn’t or, when you do, not using a condom.
  • If you are sexually active, use condoms, limit your number of sexual partners and get tested quickly if you think you might be at risk of having contracted STIs.
  • Being properly informed with accurate information and not being misled by internet or social media material.

Belfast Trust Sexual Health Service is also opening a new sexual health clinic for people under the age of 25 beginning Wednesday 6 September. The clinics will offer STI testing, information and advice, vaccination and PEP/PrEP advice. Find out more on the Sexual Health and HIV Services webpage.