On World AIDS Day 2018, Ireland is facing the real prospect that new HIV diagnoses will top 500 for the second time in 3 years. To date, provisional figures for 2018 indicate there have been 459 new HIV diagnoses in Ireland, 26 ahead of this time last year [www.hpsc.ie]. That’s over ten new infections per week. If this trend continues in 2018, Ireland is likely to experience the highest number of new HIV diagnoses on record.
The global theme for World AIDS Day 2018 is ‘Know Your Status’.
On Wednesday 28 November in Leinster House, leaders from a range of political parties joined HIV Ireland to show how quick and easy HIV testing can be. HIV can affect anyone regardless of gender, sexuality or age and our political leaders demonstrate that stigma has no role to play in HIV testing – it should be as easily available and widely accepted as getting a flu jab.
Regular HIV testing means earlier diagnosis, and earlier access to treatment. Effective HIV treatment reduces the virus in the body to undetectable levels, meaning that HIV cannot be passed on to someone else.
According to Niall Mulligan, Executive Director of HIV Ireland:
“In 2017, HIV Ireland provided free, low threshold, HIV testing to 1089 people across 6 different community sites. Unfortunately, we had to turn away a further 384 people who presented for testing because of lack of resources. It is crucial that we ensure access to free HIV testing is widely available across Ireland”.
At the event, HIV Ireland launched its ‘5 Key Asks’ document.
This document outlines the key issues that require action from the Government if the current upward trend in new HIV diagnoses in Ireland are to be reversed.
- Implement HIV Prevention services, including making Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) freely available, particularly to at-risk populations.
- Ireland to commit to the international Fast Track Cities project aimed at controlling the HIV epidemic.
- Increase resources to maximise opportunities for community and healthcare-based HIV testing across Ireland. Each infection caught can stop another.
- Increase resources for community-based HIV counselling and support services for people living with HIV in Ireland.
- Develop a national awareness campaign promoting the U=U message to combat HIV related stigma and encourage more people to get tested.
Professor Patrick Mallon, Consultant in Infectious Diseases St Vincent’s University Hospital, and HIV Ireland Board member, highlighted the urgent need “to prioritise the availability of Pre-exposure Prophylaxis on the medical card, and increase the resourcing of HIV community-based services in Ireland, especially in relation to HIV testing, counselling and support. Only then will we begin to see a reverse in the recent upward trend in new HIV diagnoses in Ireland”.
HIV Ireland is calling on the Irish Government to fully endorse the International Fast Track Cities Project. Fast track cities commit to building upon, strengthening and leveraging existing HIV-specific and HIV-related programmes and resources. With over 250 cities internationally involved Professor Mallon, said:
“it is time for cities in Ireland, and Ireland as a whole to join other global cities and regions by signing up to the Fast-Track Cities Initiative”.
For information about HIV, testing, safer sex and support please visit – www.hivireland.ie