National charity calls for urgent Government action on spiralling HIV figures
Press Release – Friday 29th April 2016
-Ten new people are diagnosed with HIV every week in Ireland-
The incoming Government must take urgent action to address the spiralling HIV crisis. That’s according to HIV Ireland, the national charity for HIV advocacy, support and prevention.
With new HIV diagnoses in Ireland increasing to their highest level on record in 2015, Niall Mulligan, Executive Director of HIV Ireland said: ‘‘One of the first actions of the new Government must be to address the HIV crisis in Ireland. HIV Ireland has been working in the areas of prevention, testing, outreach and support for almost 30 years and we are alarmed at the relentless upward trend in HIV diagnoses.”
New HIV diagnoses nationally have increased by 35% since 2011. A total of 498 people were diagnosed as living with HIV in 2015, compared with 372 in 2014 [www.hpsc.ie – provisional data]. This worrying trend has continued in 2016, with 175 new provisional diagnoses to date (compared to 106 this time last year – a 40% increase). Ireland now has an average of 10 people per week being diagnosed with HIV.
HIV affects a range of at-risk groups including men who have sex with men (MSM), intravenous drug users and migrants. Over one-third of new HIV transmissions in Ireland were through heterosexual sexual contact in 2014. HIV also affects both younger and older people, with 44 young people aged between 14 and 24, and 32 people aged over 50 years, diagnosed with HIV in 2014.
Official figures are likely to understate the scale of the crisis. According to the World Health Organisation, 30% of people living with HIV are undiagnosed. It is therefore likely the number of people living with HIV in Ireland is considerably higher than the number of diagnosed cases.
HIV Ireland has been providing community testing in Dublin since 2013 and is currently developing a similar testing project in the North East. This innovative, lifesaving service has a detection rate of 1 HIV positive person for every 80 people tested. People who don’t know their HIV status run the greatest risk of poorer health outcomes, and of transmitting HIV to others through unprotected sex or sharing of needles. HIV symptoms may not appear for years, so the only way someone will know they are living with HIV is by getting tested.
The good news is that regular HIV testing can mean earlier diagnosis and more effective treatment. With early treatment, a person’s long term health prospects may improve to the point where their life expectancy will be similar to that of someone who has not contracted HIV. HIV Ireland wants everyone living with HIV to have the prospect of a long and fulfilling life.
Mulligan said, ‘HIV Ireland believes we can begin to reverse the trend in new diagnoses with a national HIV prevention and awareness campaign. The Government needs to invest in public awareness about how HIV is transmitted and how this can be prevented. We need to provide and promote free condom use across the country. Voluntary universal testing for HIV should be available nationally, especially within community and healthcare settings. We also need to focus on people who face a higher risk due to their circumstances – being homeless, being addicted to drugs, working within the sex industry, being in prison, suffering from poor mental health. Failure to do so runs the risk of creating a catastrophe out of a crisis’.
For further information, please contact:
Niall Mulligan, Executive Director
Mobile: 085 7457951
Tel: 01 8733799
Our one-day training course on HIV and Hepatitis C is now open for bookings. Taking place on Tuesday 17th May 2016, this popular training course aims to provide participants with information on HIV and Hepatitis C transmission, prevention, testing and treatment. The training will be beneficial to professionals across a range of sectors who work with service users that may be living with, or at risk of, HIV and hepatitis C. More information and booking forms are available here.
Campaign urges people to ask their pharmacist for sexual health advice.
A new campaign launched today (11th April 2016) by the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) is encouraging people to ask their pharmacist for advice about their sexual health and contraception needs. The campaign was launched by the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and is supported by the HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme (SHCPP), the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) and HIV Ireland.
HIV Ireland is delighted to support the campaign with our newly developed infographic on sexual health, which we developed in partnership with the IFPA and the HSE SHCPP. This resource provides clear information for people who may have had unprotected sex and provides guidance and information in relation to STI testing, emergency contraception, pregnancy counselling and where to access free condoms. The infographic can be used by pharmacists to signpost people to sexual health services.
Launching the campaign, Minister Varadkar said “This is a really welcome campaign which can help us to address the stigma around sexual health and also highlight the dangers associated with the recent rise in infections. It’s great to see the pharmacy sector taking such an active role in improving sexual health and combating the rise in infections. This campaign will complement the Government’s Sexual Health Strategy and Action Plan which was launched last year.”
There has been a significant increase in the number of sexually transmitted infection (STI) notifications in the last number of years, rising from 3,361 notifications reported in 1995 to 12,626 in 2014.
According to IPU President Kathy Maher, “The incidence of STIs is on the rise and it is critical that people take steps to protect their health and get tested. Your local pharmacist can offer you a private and confidential consultation and can help you arrange to get tested. Your pharmacist can also offer advice on contraception, as well as dispensing emergency contraception if required.”
Ms Maher said that: “80% of STIs are symptomless. For that reason, even if you feel healthy, if you have had unprotected sex, you should ask your pharmacist for advice about getting tested. Early diagnosis is critical in helping to prevent the spread of STIs, as well as maximising the health outcomes of the infected person.”
Read the full press release here.
The campaign was launched on 1st April 2016 by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Críona Ní Dhálaigh, at an event in the Mansion House.
HIV Ireland supports the campaign’s harm reduction approach with key messages that aim to reduce the harms associated with the choices that people may make about using powders and other drugs. Harm reduction information and education is essential to provide people with options that help to minimise risks associated with drug use and to help keep people healthy and safe.
Organisations can support the campaign by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and request a customised factsheet and poster (free of charge).
More information on the campaign can be viewed at www.drugs.ie/whatsinthepowder, where posters and factsheets can also be downloaded.
Download the HIV Ireland Poster.
Download the HIV Ireland Factsheet.