The Health Service Executive (HSE) is set to splurge around €500,000 on condoms and lubricants as part of the ongoing battle against unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. This follows the HSE seeking tenders from firms to produce branded condoms for the HSE’s National Condom Distribution Service (NCDS) and the condoms are to be given out free to people. The planned contract is for two years with an option to extend by a further two years for the HSE’s Sexual Health Crisis Pregnancy Programme. In its tender advert, the HSE state that the winning firm is to deliver in bulk around 1.5 million condoms per annum to the HSE’s storage facility in Co Waterford. The winning company is to also deliver in bulk, around 700,000 per annum water-based, scent and paraben free lubrication sachets 5ml. The tender states that since 2015, the NCDS has distributed more than 2.5 million condoms and 1.5 million lubricant sachets to organisations engaged in sexual health promotion work The estimated spend of €500,000 on behalf of the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme comes against the background of rising Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) rates in Ireland and rocketing HIV cases following the re-opening of society with the ending of Covid-19 restrictions. The most recent quarterly figures published by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) show that the number of new HIV cases for the first quarter of this year was 150 – A 90 per cent increase on the 79 cases for the corresponding period in 2020. The numbers of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea also showed sharp rises for the first quarter of this year increasing by 53 per cent to 2,330 and 73 per cent to 680. The HSE views condoms as key in limiting the spread of HIV and STIs in men who have sex other men (MSM). The function of the NCDS is to be a central point for distributing free condoms and lubricant sachets to services working directly with population groups who may be at increased risk of negative sexual health outcomes. The closing date for tenders is July 11th.