HIV Ireland appeals to Government to tackle rising HIV figures
Ireland’s Political Leaders promote ‘Know Your Status’ for World Aids Day
28th November 2018: 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 28th 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
For further information, please contact:
Prof. Patrick Mallon
HIV Ireland Board Member
Mobile: 087 690 7457
HIV Ireland Executive Director
Mobile: 085 7457951
Tel: 01 8733799
HIV Ireland is a registered charity operating at local, national and European level. The principal aim of the organisation is to 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.
The 15th Annual Gay Health Forum (GHF15) takes place on Friday 30th June 2017 at the Conference Centre, Upper Courtyard, Dublin Castle. Organised by the Gay Men’s Health Service (GMHS) HSE in partnership with the Gay Health Network, this conference is also supported by the Department of Health, the HSE: National Directorate Health and Wellbeing, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) and the Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme.
GHF15 presents an opportunity for clinical and community service providers, public health, surveillance, protection and promotion, for those involved in HIV, sexual health and other health related work with MSM and LGBT people to network, share and acknowledge all our efforts in advancing the health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ people.
The conference will commence at 9am until 3:30pm (approx.) and lunch will be provided at the event. Attendance is free of charge but registration is essential as places are limited. Register at
https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/15th-annual-gay-health-forum-tickets-34027727850. The conference programme will be emailed out to those attending on the week of 26th June.
PRESS RELEASE – Wednesday 14th June release date
HIV Ireland, and Gay Health Network, call for PrEP in response to HIV crisis
-Ten new HIV diagnoses every week in Ireland –
Wednesday 14th June 2017
HIV Ireland, and the Gay Health Network are calling for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to be made available in Ireland through the Health Service Executive’s general medical scheme (GMS). PrEP is a once daily medication that, in combination with safer-sex practices, has been proven to significantly reduce the risk of sexually acquired HIV-1 infection among uninfected adults at high risk.
In response to the ongoing HIV crisis in Ireland, HIV Ireland and the Gay Health Network issued the call on Irish AIDS Day, 15th June, at the launch of a key policy options review paper conducted by Dr. Ann Nolan (International Development Specialist).
With new HIV diagnoses in Ireland increasing to their highest level on record in 2016, a joint statement from Noel Sutton, Chairperson of the Gay Health Network, and Niall Mulligan, Executive Director of HIV Ireland stated; ‘‘HIV Ireland and the Gay Health Network are calling for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to be made a public health priority in Ireland. New HIV diagnoses nationally have increased by 35% since 2011. A total of 512 people were newly diagnosed as living with HIV in 2016, compared with 485 in 2015 [www.hpsc.ie – provisional data]. Of particular concern is the continued high level of new diagnoses amongst men who have sex with men (MSM). To reverse this alarming upward trend, PrEP must be introduced as a key HIV prevention intervention’.
Dr. Nolan added that “The message to the Health Service Executive arising from this study is clear: PrEP promises to be one of the most important innovations in the global response to HIV, and Ireland’s escalating epidemic suggests that we cannot afford to be left behind! Sustained increases in sexually acquired HIV are a cause for concern not only in Ireland but across Europe and North America. It is evident from this Irish-centred study that a range of health care providers identify a need for Ireland to join the increasing number of countries making PrEP available to people at risk of HIV as part of a comprehensive package of prevention measures.”
Speaking at the launch, Dr. Patrick Mallon, (Consultant in Infectious Diseases Mater Misericordiae University Hospital) confirmed that ‘As part of HIV prevention, safety and efficacy of currently approved PrEP medication is well established, and the high level of support for PrEP implementation among key stakeholders and potential end-users who participated in this study points to the need for immediate steps to be taken to make PrEP available to key populations at risk of HIV in Ireland’.
The official launch of Dr. Nolan’s paper will take place in HIV Ireland, 70 Eccles Street, Dublin, at 10.00am on Thursday 15th June 2017.
For information about HIV, testing, safer sex and support please visit – www.hivireland.ie; www.man2man.ie; www.positivenow.ie
If you would like to take a look at our newly published Annual Report 2016, see below.
Design by Joey at Subliminal Design
IrishTimes.com, Thursday 11th May 2017
Ambivalence putting people at risk of contracting disease
Record numbers of people were diagnosed with HIV in Ireland last year amid concerns that a growing ambivalence about the disease is putting increasing numbers of people at risk.
More than 500 new cases of HIV were diagnosed, the highest rate since records began. Rates have been rising steadily since 2011, with the rate of new infections increasing significantly within the past two years.
The figures come at the same time that new research shows the life expectancy for young people with HIV in the western world is now as high as 76, helped by ever-improving treatments.
“Projections suggest that life expectancy of a 20-year-old who began treatment from 2008 onwards and had a low viral load after a year of treatment may approach that of the general population [about 78 years old],” the study published in The Lancet HIV journal this week states.
Newly released figures from Ireland’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) show that 512 people were diagnosed with the human immunodeficiency virus in 2016. Of these, 77 per cent were male and 23 per cent female.
However, over half of the new cases are people who were born outside of Ireland, but who came to Ireland in recent years. So far this year, there have been 183 new HIV cases. If this trend continues, 2017 will surpass last year’s figure.
Nearly half of the new HIV cases resulted from sex between men. Nearly a fifth came after heterosexual sex. Just 4 per cent of cases are reported from people who inject drugs.
However, the source of nearly a third of all of the cases – 31 per cent – recorded by the HPSC remained “unknown”, according to the HSE website.
A HSE spokeswoman said the rise was a cause for concern. It said that homosexuals from Latin America were a particularly high-risk group “some of whom are acquiring HIV in Ireland, and others who are coming to Ireland already infected with HIV”.
Part of the HSE response includes increased funding for screenings and working with the Gay Health Network to promote sexual health.
Niall Mulligan of HIV Ireland said the steady increase was “extremely concerning” but that some of the increase could be attributed to better detection procedures.
“There has been a steady increase over the last few years. Some of that is down to improved testing, so we are getting the numbers quicker.
“The other side is people are coming into Ireland, either students or coming from abroad to work. If they have already been diagnosed with HIV in the country they are coming from, they still have to go through HIV testing.”
Experts have also attributed the rise to an increase in unprotected sex in the gay community spurred by online dating apps such as Grindr and the use of recreational drugs during sex.
“I think there is definitely a scene which I suppose internationally would be described as the ‘chemsex’ scene. It’s the association of the use of chemical drugs with multiple sexual partners, group sex and unsafe sex,” Dr Des Crowley, addiction specialist at the Mountjoy Square Treatment Centre, said.
“Then I suppose within another sub-group of that is people who are choosing to have less safe sex. My own view is that people don’t really see HIV as being as serious a disease as previously.”
The new Lancet study states that, thanks to a variety of factors such as less-toxic treatment drugs and better adherence to treatment programmes, a 20-year-old man with HIV can expect to live to about 73 years of age while a woman can expect to live to about 76.
The study tracked 88,504 people with HIV from 18 European and North American cities who started antiretroviral treatment between 1996 and 2010.
Andrew Leavitt of the Dublin HIV/Aids activist group Act Up said that although some surveys showed condom use was dropping among homosexuals, it was overly simplistic to attribute the rise in HIV cases to ambivalence about the issue.
“Condom use isn’t necessarily the best proxy for what kind of risks people are taking. A lot of people understand that treatments which help people live longer also prevent transmission.
“There isn’t one single factor we can point to for increased HIV diagnoses,” Mr Leavitt said. “The idea that treatment is making people care less also ignores the fact the HIV is really heavily stigmatised, particularly in the gay community.”
Link to original article: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/record-numbers-of-people-diagnosed-with-hiv-1.3079987