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Press Release: Ending new HIV transmissions begins with empowerment, says HIV Ireland

A new initiative by HIV Ireland aiming to empower gay, bisexual and trans men towards improved sexual health and wellbeing is being launched today [Thursday 20 February]. MPOWER, a peer-led, community-based sexual health programme, comprises rapid HIV testing, free resources and community-based outreach responses to promote the sexual health and wellbeing needs of the community.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Executive Director of HIV Ireland Stephen O’Hare said:

“MPOWER represents a new departure for HIV and STI testing and outreach services. By fostering a sense of ownership and empowerment among members of the community, many of whom participate as volunteers on the programme, we aim to reverse recent trends and take a giant step towards ending new HIV transmission in Ireland.”

The programme is being launched at a time of rising HIV and STI figures. Speaking at the launch, MPOWER Programme Manager Adam Shanley said:

“Today, HIV disproportionately affects gay and bisexual men, with more than half of all new diagnoses occurring among this population, and since 2011 we have seen a consistent rise in new diagnoses. Similarly, we are seeing increases in bacterial infections like syphilis and gonorrhoea, the majority of which are acquired by gay and bisexual men,” he added.

MPOWER provides rapid HIV testing and information on safer sex practices and harm-reduction, as well as physical resources such as condoms and lubricant. Referrals to clinical services for treatment can also be made. Outreach services will be offered in English, Portuguese and Spanish and made available in places men are known to seek and have sex including on dating apps, in bars and clubs and in ‘sex on premises’ venues such as gay saunas and sex clubs.

The programme also seeks to address some of the current challenges which may impact on safer sex choices including the use of drugs before and during sex.

“Members of our community are struggling with the sexualised use of drugs, such as GHB and crystal meth, with those experiencing problematic use identifying issues relating to self-worth, self-esteem and desire to belong,” said Shanley. “All of these challenges require a coordinated, sensitive and holistic approach.”

The MPOWER Programme is an initiative of HIV Ireland and is funded by the HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme.

For more information visit hivireland.ie/mpower

ENDS

For interviews contact: Stephen O’Hare Executive Director 085 711 26 35 stephen.ohare@hivireland.ie

Notes to Editors:

HIV Ireland will launch MPOWER at 6pm on Thursday 20 February at the Irish Museum of Modern Art to coincide with the Derek Jarman PROTEST! Exhibition. The exhibition showcases the work of noted British artist, filmmaker Derek Jarman, who, prior to his death in 1994, had been living with HIV. The exhibition runs until 23 February.

The weekly MPOWER rapid HIV testing schedule is as follows:


• Tuesdays, 20:00-22:00: The George, 89 South Great George’s Street, Dublin 2.
• Wednesdays, 18:00-20:00: Outhouse, 105 Capel Street, Dublin 1.
• Saturdays, 17:00-19:00: the Boilerhouse, 12 Crane Lane, Dublin 2.
• Saturdays and Sundays, 15:30-17:30: Pantibar, 7-8 Capel Street, Dublin 1.