This week RCPI is hosting Ireland’s first ever Sexual Health Awareness Week

Published: 30/05/2012 Last Updated: 31/01/2014

28 May - 31 May 2012, Sexual Health Awareness Week (SHAW) is promoting sexual health awareness in Ireland. You can still book online to attend public meetings, debates and workshops in RCPI...

Running from 28 May to 31 May 2012, Sexual Health Awareness Week (SHAW) is all about promoting sexual health awareness at a national level. A mix of public meetings, debates and interactive workshops are taking place in RCPI, all of which are free and open to the public.


All events are being held in RCPI, 6 Kildare Street, Dublin 2. You can register to attend events on arrival however places cannot be guaranteed.

If you want to watch our Public Meeting, The Age of Consent For Sexual Activity - Have We Got It Right? by webcast please click
here. The link will go live at 6.30pm Thursday 31 May.

On Monday 28 May, the RCPI Policy Group on Sexual Health launched its first set of statements, outlining what they want to see implemented in Ireland. You can read their statement



Some SHAW events will deal with very topical sexual health issues, such as choice in contraceptive provision, skills for parents when talking to their children about sex, the age of consent for sexual activity, transgender patient issues and care for victims of rape and sexual assault.


The programme for SHAW also reflects modern Ireland, a more multicultural and diverse society that thinks and behaves very differently to the Ireland of thirty years ago. The evolution of HIV treatment in Ireland over the past thirty years is the focus of a public lecture on Tuesday 29 May. And on the same day, the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme will launch its report Attitudes to Fertility, Sexual Health and Motherhood Among a Sample of Non-Irish National Ethnic Minority Women Living in Ireland. In the context of the changing face of religion in Ireland, Aids Care Education and Training (ACET) will be holding a workshop on how to address HIV-positive patients refusing medical treatment because of religious belief in divine intervention.

The overall ethos of SHAW is positive, supportive and inclusive, and the range of organisations holding workshops during SHAW reflect just this – RCPI is delighted to welcome the HSE Gay Men’s Health Service, the Irish Family Planning Association, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme, AIDS West, Squashy Couch Cafe, and Foróige on board for SHAW.

There is a particular focus on youth issues during SHAW. On Thursday 31 May, there will be separate one-hour workshops on adolescent sexual health education, challenges in addressing the relationship and sexuality needs of young people, and skills for parents when talking to their children about relationships and sexuality. And later that day, a public debate will be held on The Age of Consent for Sexual Activity – Have We Got It Right? At this event, Minister for Justice, Mr Alan Shatter, will talk about current legislation, while two finalists of the RCPI Transition Year essay competition will be speaking from the perspective of the very people for whom the age of consent can have legal consequences.

Sexual health isn’t just about STIs and contraception. It is concerned with general wellbeing (physical, emotional, mental and social) in the area of sexuality. Accordingly, SHAW kicks off with a public meeting, Sexual Health is Everyone’s Affair, on Monday 28 May. On the night, expert talks will be given on Sexual Health: Irish Attitudes and Behaviours, Making Time for Sex and Intimacy, and Attaining and Maintaining Sexual Health. The journalist and broadcaster Orla Barry, will also give a talk on Observations: The Media’s perspective on sex in Ireland. Miriam O’Callaghan will be chairing the meeting and the always-lively question and answer session that follows the expert talks.

Dr Stephanie O’Keeffe, Director of the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme and one of the lead coordinators of SHAW, said, “Sexual Health Awareness Week promotes the message that sexual health is not just about the prevention of crisis pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Sexual health and behaviours are a universal component of human development and wellbeing and it is central to relationship and family formation, community development and sustainability. I am delighted to see so many statutory and community groups participating in SHAW, highlighting the broad range of issues central to positive sexual health in Ireland.”

Dr Fiona Lyons, a consultant genitourinary physician at St James’s Hospital, led the development of SHAW with Dr O’Keeffe. She said, “While we await a national, integrated approach to the provision of sexual health services in Ireland, lots of organisations are providing extremely valuable services. SHAW is a wonderful, unique opportunity to promote awareness of these services to the whole of Ireland. Ireland is not yet where it needs to be in terms of education, prevention and services but SHAW is a very welcome step in the right direction.”

Professor Hannah McGee, Professor of Psychology and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, will be speaking about Ireland’s changing attitudes to sexual behaviour at a public meeting on Monday 28 May. She said, “We are now in the very positive situation of having an extensive, up-to-date Irish evidence base on sexual attitudes and behaviours. The investment in research in the past decade reflects our maturing approach to sexual health and is now more central than ever to informing planning, service delivery and evaluation in an era of scarce resources.”

Click here to view the full list of SHAW events.

Media Queries – Who to contact

Aoife Ní Mhaitiú, Communications Executive

Royal College of Physicians of Ireland

Phone 01 8639 770, 085 850 0080


If you would like to find out more about SHAW, attend one of our SHAW events or arrange an interview with one of our experts, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

You can follow RCPI on Twitter for the latest SHAW news. We’ll be using the hashtag #SHAW12.

 RCPI Policy Group on Sexual Health

The RCPI Policy Group on Sexual Health was established in 2010. It is a multidisciplinary group advocating for the development and implementation of a national sexual health strategy and is co-chaired by Prof Colm Bergin and Dr Jack Lambert. The RCPI Policy Group on Sexual Health will be launching its first set of position statements on education, prevention and clinical services for STIs on Monday 28 May. SHAW was organised on foot of recommendations made by the RCPI Policy Group on Sexual Health.

Definition of Sexual Health

Sexual health is not merely the absence of infection, disease, dysfunction or infirmity. It is a state of general well-being (physical, emotional, mental and social) in the area of sexuality.

Sexual health services cover a wide range of activities, from medical treatment, screening, education, and the provision of information, counselling and support.

Sexuality encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, pleasure, etc. It is affected by many factors and their interaction (biological, social, psychological, historical, cultural, economic, political, legal, religious and spiritual).

The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes sexual health as follows: “Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.”

The RCPI Transition Year Essay Competition

In the run up to SHAW, RCPI ran a competition for all Transition Year students in Ireland. Students were invited to write an essay on “What the age of consent for sexual activity means to young people”. The two best essays were chosen on 20 April.