Press Release, Embargo 00.01am, 15 June 2023, Irish AIDS Day

A new service to provide testing and promote awareness of HIV and other STIs to benefit trans and non-binary people is being announced today, Irish AIDS Day 15 June 2023.

The service has been developed by HIV Ireland with funding from the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) through its LGBTI+ Community Services Fund.

Announcing the roll out of the service, Executive Director of HIV Ireland Stephen O’Hare said: “Ireland continues to see a worrying upward trajectory in cases of HIV. Last year, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) recorded more than 850 newly notified cases in Ireland in its weekly published statistics, more than double the previous year.”

“Data for the first quarter of 2023 shows a continuing increase in newly notified cases of with numbers for HIV and other STIs far exceeding the same period last year,” he added.

“In order to combat this rising trend, and to meet Ireland’s global commitment to end new HIV transmissions by 2030, we must ensure the widest availability of barrier-free, accessible HIV and sexual health services, with a particular emphasis on communities facing obstacles to testing and related health care,” continued Mr O’Hare.

In the first phase of this peer-led project, coordinated by noted HIV and transgender activist Rebecca Tallon de Havilland, HIV Ireland is recruiting peer volunteers to carry out free rapid HIV-testing. Testing will be provided free of charge, and include clinical oversight and onward referral services in appropriate cases.

Focus on trans and non-binary communities

Speaking at the announcement, Ms Tallon de Havilland said, “Research tells us that, globally, transgender people are 13 times more likely to be HIV-positive than other adults, while access to HIV services is lower.”

Highlighting her own experience as a trans women living with HIV, Ms Tallon De Havilland said: “Many trans and non-binary people find it difficult to access appropriate HIV and sexual health services due to experiences of stigma, violence, and legal barriers compounded by a lack of awareness among some health care professionals and gendered service provision that does not meet the needs of our community.”

“The persistence of these barriers means that, globally speaking, transgender women are many times more likely to acquire HIV than other women,” continued Ms Tallon de Havilland.

“In order to remove some of these barriers and improve overall accessibility, we need services that reflect the needs and expectations of the community. That is why we are developing a first-of-its-kind peer-led service by trans and non-binary people for trans and non-binary people,” she added.

Acknowledging the role of the department headed by Minister Roderic O’Gorman in funding the project, Stephen O’Hare said “We are grateful to DCEDIY for generously supporting HIV Ireland to develop its work programme in a strategic and peer-led manner, in order to more effectively meet the sexual health needs of trans and non-binary people.”

The call for volunteers is now open, with details available on HIV Ireland’s website and social media pages. All volunteers will receive training, supervision, and support from HIV Ireland.

Notes to Editors