Launch of KnowNow – Ireland’s first free rapid HIV testing service for gay and bisexual men

leovaradkar

Minister For Health, Leo Varadkar

GLEN (Gay & Lesbian Equality Network) The Sexual Health Centre Cork,and GOSHH (Gender Orientation, Sexual Health and HIV)  Limerick, today launch ‘KnowNow’ Ireland’s first national free rapid HIV testing programme. The testing is community based and will be provided by a team of community volunteers in a variety of non-clinical venues in Dublin, Cork and Limerick. In Dublin, this will include Pantibar, on Capel Street.

The latest HIV diagnosis figures show that HIV remains an issue of critical concern for gay and bisexual men. The figures for 2015 show that gay and bisexual men are the group most likely to acquire HIV in Ireland. There remains a clear need for gay and bisexual men to know their HIV status.

“KnowNow, the new rapid HIV testing pilot is an exciting and innovative new approach to enabling more people to know their HIV status. If people have HIV then the earlier they become aware of their status the better it will be for their long term health outcomes. In addition, most HIV is transmitted by people who are unaware that they have HIV, so early diagnosis can further reduce onward transmission rates” said Tiernan Brady, director of Gay HIV Strategies for GLEN. 

Gay HIV Strategies, an initiative of GLEN – the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network – focuses on developing effective HIV prevention and sexual health promotion.

Rory O’Neill (Ms Panti Bliss) helped launched the project highlighting the importance of making testing easier saying:

“There is still far too much stigma around HIV and knowing your HIV status. As part of tackling that stigma we need to provide opportunities to test for HIV that are convenient, affirmative and that are provided how, when and where is most appropriate for the people we are encouraging to test. Pantibar are delighted to support the project and have testing take place in our bar”

The funding for the project was announced by Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar TD, at the recent launch of Ireland’s first National Sexual Health Strategy.

Minister Leo Varadkar stated:

“I really welcome the launch of this pilot service and I’m delighted that the Department of Health has provided €150,000 to support it. It means that Dublin now has its first ever free rapid HIV testing service. The one-year pilot will offer a mix of on-site testing in workplaces, bars and other hubs. This is a significant development in promoting safer sexual health in Dublin and the surrounding area, and compliments services already underway in Cork and Limerick.”

GOSHH will be providing the service in Limerick. Ann Mason, director of GOSHH said:

“We are delighted to be part of the KnowNow campaign and look forward to working with our partners to provide community based rapid HIV tests which will be free of charge. At GOSHH one of our goals will be that everybody living in the Mid-West will get to know their HIV status and be aware of Sexual Health services within their locality.”

Deirdre Seery, director of the Sexual Health Centre in Cork also welcomed the project:

“We are delighted that we can now offer this rapid HIV test. It only takes a minute to know your HIV status. HIV is a preventable condition and this program will help us to reach our goal of zero new cases”

Information on times and locations for testing is available from KnownowIE on facebook, and from contacting GLEN, GOSSH or the Sexual Health Centre in Cork.

Details of venues and times of testing will be available on the KnowNow facebook page at

https://www.facebook.com/KnowNowIE/

Further information on 2015 HIV figures:

http://www.hpsc.ie/A-Z/HIVSTIs/HIVandAIDS/SurveillanceReports/

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