"It is crucial we work to reduce the number of crisis pregnancies."
Free condoms will be made available to all third-level students from September, Minister for Health Simon Harris has confirmed.
The service will see that condoms are available free of charge at every Irish third-level institution from the beginning of this academic year.
Minister Harris announced that the move is part of a government strategy to promote better sexual health across the country.
"The first phase of the service will see a dispenser service being implemented across third-level colleges and university access points in quarter four of 2019," he said.
“As Minister for Health, I believe it is crucial we work to reduce the number of crisis pregnancies, increase awareness about sexually transmitted infections and improve sexual health.”
Whisperings of such a move were first heard when the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment recommended increased access to free contraception.
The National Condom Distribution Service handed out 409,319 free condoms and 287,565 lubricant sachets last year.
The Irish government is also taking a stand on HIV awareness with plans to introduce a Pre- Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) programme later this year.
PrEP, the revolutionary drug that no longer equates a HIV diagnosis to a life-sentence, is a once-daily medication that, in combination with safer sex practices, has been proven to significantly reduce the risk of HIV infection.
It reduces the risk of contracting HIV from sex by more than 90%, and over 70% among those who inject drugs. The medication is currently available with a prescription in Ireland, however, it costs around €100 for one month's supply – meaning inaccessibility to most.
With an average of 10 new diagnoses every week, HIV remains a crisis health issue in Ireland.
“This is one of a number of things we are doing to promote sexual health," said Harris. "We have allocated €500,000 to join the Fast Track Cities Initiative and increase community HIV testing."
“Later this year, we will roll out PrEP. The working group on the provision of free contraception is also due to report in September with policy options in this regard."