HIV Ireland publishes 2018 Annual Report

Our 2018 Annual Report has been published.

Launching the report, Chairperson Bernard Condon SC remarked on “Another year of challenging but impactful work” completed by HIV Ireland.

On behalf of the Board of HIV Ireland I am pleased to introduce our 2018 Annual Report.  Another year of challenging but impactful work has been completed by HIV Ireland.  The importance of these efforts, and those of our many partners, cannot be underestimated.  Once again in the pages of another Annual Report I note that new HIV diagnoses in Ireland continued to increase – in 2018 to their highest level on record.  Ireland has now experienced a 35% increase in new diagnoses since 2011.  Whilst there are many reasons behind the growth in these figures, they are a stark reminder of the challenge that HIV continues to pose in our society and the necessity of this organisation to continue to engage, contribute and serve.

HIV Ireland does not operate alone and much of our work is undertaken in partnership with other organisations, agencies and individuals.  This partnership approach is at the heart of our organisation, and has been keenly evidenced throughout the past year.  We have continued to work closely with our sexual health colleagues across the country on further developing Rapid HIV Testing, while reaching out to new colleagues in our efforts to expand our work within key populations affected by HIV.  We look forward to continuing this policy of cooperation with both statutory and non-statutory organisations that work directly with key risk populations – groups working with men who have sex with men, people who use drugs, sex workers, migrants, and people experiencing homelessness amongst others.

2018 was a notable year for our renewed efforts to expand our message and strive to further our ambition in providing expertise and experience in education, community activity, testing, advocacy and support.  On Irish AIDS Day we launched the inaugural Red Ball, and we were grateful for the attendance of our guest of honour, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.  The Red Ball was an opportunity to reach out and engage with our partners, sponsors, and supporters, and I thank them all for their great generosity which helps to advance our goals.  I most particularly wish to mark the incredible efforts of my fellow Board member Jeanne McDonagh in organising and choreographing the event so successfully.  I also thank her team of volunteers who gave so kindly of their time.

This brings me to thank the entire Board – HIV Ireland is lucky to have such expertise in so many areas available to it, and I thank each of my fellow Board members for their service and their invaluable contributions. Also, as part of our renewed commitment to reaching out publicly I recall the incredibly effective event we organised at Leinster House marking World AIDS Day where six national party leaders volunteered to publicly undergo a Rapid HIV Test to help promote the importance of getting tested.  By doing so they also took a major step forward in reducing HIV related stigma in Ireland.  Such political leadership is crucial in responding to the challenges that HIV presents in Ireland today.

These events help to tackle stigma and drive a message of inclusion, tolerance and understanding.  We have developed a strategy to continue this approach, and so in this regard we launched the #5Asks campaign in 2018.  That campaign continues our commitment to the U=U message and the campaign for properly available PrEP in Ireland.  We were among the first to advance the issue of the Fast Track Cities initiative being adopted in Ireland.  Progress is already being made on these issues but that will only encourage us to push further on behalf of those affected by HIV.

For HIV Ireland to effectively respond to the increase in new HIV diagnoses, we recognise the importance of bringing all our experience and knowledge to bear within the political and public policy arena.  In 2018, we worked closely with the main political parties to highlight the issue of HIV in Ireland, and how best it should be responded to.  We will continue to speak up for those living with HIV and those at risk or affected by the illness.

In terms of our own organisation I want to wholeheartedly thank all those who support our work and particularly mark the contribution of our dedicated and experienced staff. Their commitment and skill is augmented by the contribution of the volunteers of HIV Ireland.  That work together undoubtedly enhances the lives of many people living with HIV in Ireland.  I sincerely thank them all for their hard work.

On behalf of the Board I wish to express our appreciation to all those who helped fund the organisation.  I cannot but emphasise the importance of this support in allowing us to continue to provide services, and survive as a potent force engaged with the issues that HIV presents, and will continue to present into the future.  New challenges lie ahead – the introduction of PrEP, the advances in testing technology, stigma and the challenges for those growing older.  We must remain ready to engage, ready to evolve and ready to speak up as we always have.

Thank you to all who assisted in last year’s great efforts.

Bernard Condon SC
Chairperson, HIV Ireland