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Debunking the myths: 4,000 students sign up for free sexual health education programme

Professor Fergal Malone Stands smiling in front of an ornate, white fireplace, chandelier and Gold framed mirror.
Prof. Fergal Malone, Former Master of the rotunda Hospital

In September we were featured in the Irish Examiner. Here’s what Journalist Niamh Griffin had to say:

“More than 4,000 secondary school students have signed up to a free sexual health education programme covering sexually transmitted infections (STIs), healthy bodies, and other topics.

Titled “Debunking the myths” the programme is delivered by the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland department of obstetrics and gynaecology in collaboration with the Rotunda Hospital.

Transition year students, from 52 schools across 20 counties, will attend a mix of in-person and online workshops. They will meet and ask questions of specialists in infectious diseases, emergency medicine, midwifery, obstetrics, gynaecology and psychology as well as GPs.

Topics covered include the anatomy of the vulva, the HPV vaccine, contraception, menstruation, STI prevention, and fertility.

The programme is designed to help teenagers learn through open discussion and questioning with information shared in a non-biased and non-judgemental way.

Master of the Rotunda, and programme lead, Professor Fergal Malone said they are delighted to see so many students already registered.

“The ability for our experts to engage with young people virtually has revolutionised the programme and allows us to offer this programme to schools beyond Dublin,” he said.

“Young people are more online than ever, and we need to ensure that the information they receive is factual, relevant, and most of all, safe.”

Avoiding misinformation and fake news

He said social media and media sources can spread misinformation about these sensitive topics.

“We aim to empower students to make evidence-based decisions for themselves, to support good health and well-being in their youth and into the future,” he said.

The project is funded by Science Foundation Ireland under the Discover Programme and is set to run from October to March next year.

“In the current climate of ‘fake news’, it can be challenging for teenagers to find reliable sources of information about sexual and reproductive health,” a spokeswoman for the programme said.

“Many teenagers are learning about their bodies from film, television and social media, which often show standardised images that help perpetuate myths and unrealistic body standards.” 

The programme has run in Dublin since 2019 based around in-person workshops at the Rotunda. These six previously-held workshops covered anatomy of the vulva, periods, contraception, STIs, and the HPV vaccine.

This is the first year for the series to be offered in other counties thanks to the growing interest in virtual education.”