HIV Ireland has warmly welcomed the launch of Irelands first ever National Sexual Health Strategy by the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar at The Button Factory in Temple Bar.
In conversation with Ray Darcy, who compered the launch, the Minister spoke about the important role the new strategy will have on the ‘need to turn the tide on increasing STI infections, including HIV’. The Minister went on to highlight the importance of, and need for, “better access to education and information” on sexual health for all.
Speaking after the launch, Niall Mulligan, Executive Director of HIV Ireland stated that ‘This is the first time HIV has been integrated into a broader sexual health context in Ireland. While this is welcomed by HIV Ireland, we cannot afford to become complacent. We know that certain population groups remain at greater risk of HIV infection and that HIV-related stigma and discrimination remain a significant issue for people when it comes to accessing testing, disclosing their HIV status and onward transmission. We must continually remind ourselves that as new HIV diagnoses increase in Ireland (388 new provisional diagnoses to date in 2015, an increase of 65 over this time last year – www.hpsc.ie), approximately 30% of people who are living with HIV in Ireland don’t actually know they are. The Ministers support for increased testing is key to responding to the growing HIV diagnoses in Ireland’.
For many years, HIV Ireland has called for the publication of a National Sexual Health Strategy. On Irish AIDS Day 2005, HIV Ireland called on the Irish Government to put sexual health on the political agenda, to develop a National Sexual Health Strategy, while reinvesting in prevention and making condoms freely available. On that very day, ten years ago, HIV Ireland organised a march from the Garden of Remembrance to Dail Eireann to lobby for a National Sexual Health Strategy and received political endorsement from a range of T.D.s including our current President, Mr. Michael D. Higgins.
In launching this strategy, Leo Varadkar becomes the first Health Minister in the history of the Irish state to preside over a fundamental policy shift in the way society responds to the sexual health and wellbeing of each and every citizen. By creating an openness towards sexual health, we can tackle some of the barriers that have existed for many years in relation to sex and sexual health in Ireland. Embarrassment, lack of knowledge, fear and shame have so often led to poor health outcomes, stigma and discrimination for people across Irish society, especially those affected by HIV.
Since 2005, HIV Ireland has been consistently involved in the development of the new strategy, and is delighted to see it come to fruition. The resourcing of the strategy is crucial and when asked about a budget to implement the strategy the Minister responded that the Department of Health “haven’t put a formal costing on it yet” but with ‘a rising health budget there will be resources made available” for implementing the strategy. HIV Ireland welcomes this commitment and looks forward to working alongside the Department of Health, the Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme and other key stakeholders across the lifetime of the strategy.
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HIV Ireland Information
HIV Ireland is a registered charity operating at local, National and European level. The principal aim of the organisation is too improve, through a range of support services, conditions for people living with HIV and AIDS and/or Hepatitis, their families and their caregivers while further promoting sexual health in the general population.
Our mission and vision is to contribute towards a significant reduction in the incidence and prevalence of HIV in Ireland and towards the realisation of an AIDS-free generation by advocating for individuals living with HIV, preventing new HIV infections and combating HIV-related stigma and discrimination.
Since 1987 HIV Ireland (formerly Dublin AIDS Alliance) has been pioneering services in sexual health education and promotion, and has consistently engaged in lobbying and campaigning in the promotion of human rights. Our approach broadly reflects a harm minimisation model which emphasises practical rather than idealised goals. In relation to practical service provision we currently operate under two headings:
- Community Support
- 1-1 Support
- Community Outreach Work
- HIV & STI Community Testing
- Capacity Building with People Living with HIV
- Prevention, Education & Training
- One day workshops on HIV, STI’s and Sexual Health
- Sexual Health Training for Trainers Programme (Let’s Talk About…..Safer Sex)
- Free Condom Service (Just Carry One Campaign)
- Social Media work and campaigning
- Network Involvement