National charity calls for urgent Government action on spiralling HIV figures
Press Release – Friday 29th April 2016
-Ten new people are diagnosed with HIV every week in Ireland-
The incoming Government must take urgent action to address the spiralling HIV crisis. That’s according to HIV Ireland, the national charity for HIV advocacy, support and prevention.
With new HIV diagnoses in Ireland increasing to their highest level on record in 2015, Niall Mulligan, Executive Director of HIV Ireland said: ‘‘One of the first actions of the new Government must be to address the HIV crisis in Ireland. HIV Ireland has been working in the areas of prevention, testing, outreach and support for almost 30 years and we are alarmed at the relentless upward trend in HIV diagnoses.”
New HIV diagnoses nationally have increased by 35% since 2011. A total of 498 people were diagnosed as living with HIV in 2015, compared with 372 in 2014 [www.hpsc.ie – provisional data]. This worrying trend has continued in 2016, with 175 new provisional diagnoses to date (compared to 106 this time last year – a 40% increase). Ireland now has an average of 10 people per week being diagnosed with HIV.
HIV affects a range of at-risk groups including men who have sex with men (MSM), intravenous drug users and migrants. Over one-third of new HIV transmissions in Ireland were through heterosexual sexual contact in 2014. HIV also affects both younger and older people, with 44 young people aged between 14 and 24, and 32 people aged over 50 years, diagnosed with HIV in 2014.
Official figures are likely to understate the scale of the crisis. According to the World Health Organisation, 30% of people living with HIV are undiagnosed. It is therefore likely the number of people living with HIV in Ireland is considerably higher than the number of diagnosed cases.
HIV Ireland has been providing community testing in Dublin since 2013 and is currently developing a similar testing project in the North East. This innovative, lifesaving service has a detection rate of 1 HIV positive person for every 80 people tested. People who don’t know their HIV status run the greatest risk of poorer health outcomes, and of transmitting HIV to others through unprotected sex or sharing of needles. HIV symptoms may not appear for years, so the only way someone will know they are living with HIV is by getting tested.
The good news is that regular HIV testing can mean earlier diagnosis and more effective treatment. With early treatment, a person’s long term health prospects may improve to the point where their life expectancy will be similar to that of someone who has not contracted HIV. HIV Ireland wants everyone living with HIV to have the prospect of a long and fulfilling life.
Mulligan said, ‘HIV Ireland believes we can begin to reverse the trend in new diagnoses with a national HIV prevention and awareness campaign. The Government needs to invest in public awareness about how HIV is transmitted and how this can be prevented. We need to provide and promote free condom use across the country. Voluntary universal testing for HIV should be available nationally, especially within community and healthcare settings. We also need to focus on people who face a higher risk due to their circumstances – being homeless, being addicted to drugs, working within the sex industry, being in prison, suffering from poor mental health. Failure to do so runs the risk of creating a catastrophe out of a crisis’.
For further information, please contact:
Niall Mulligan, Executive Director
Mobile: 085 7457951
Tel: 01 8733799