‘Invest in expanded HIV testing services to reverse record high levels of new cases’, says HIV Ireland
15 June 2020
“The Government should invest in the expansion of HIV testing services if it is serious about reversing record high newly notified HIV cases,” said Mr Stephen O’Hare, Executive Director with HIV Ireland. The remarks coincide with the organisation’s new media messaging campaign to mark Irish AIDS Day, 15 June 2020.
Launched online due to the continued restrictions on public gathering imposed during Phase 2 of the Roadmap on Reopening Society and Business, the campaign seeks to promote the re-evaluation of the current approach to ending HIV transmission in the wake of record high rates of newly notified cases of HIV and the Government’s robust response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now, more than ever…” boasts the campaign messaging, “We must end HIV and HIV-related stigma”, “We can end new HIV transmissions”, “We must ensure barrier free access to PrEP.”, “We can get to Zero”, the last a reference to zero new HIV transmissions by the target date 2030 set out in the Sustainable Development Goals, to which Ireland has committed.
“The scale of the response to COVID-19 is unlikely to be repeated, unless the virus returns in more virulent waves” continued Mr O’Hare. “The impact on existing service provision, on our economy and on our society has been stark. There are, however, key lessons to be learned from this experience, which should inform the Government’s approach to HIV prevention, not least the critical value of widespread testing to detect and prevent onward transmission of the virus.”
New (provisional) data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre indicates that for the third year in a row, the number of newly notified HIV cases continues to climb (536 in 2019 – the highest on record) with a corresponding increase in the rate of diagnoses (11.3 per 100,000 of the population). Data published weekly by the HPSC suggests a similar upward trajectory in 2020 with notified cases appearing to exceed the figure for the same period last year.
“The true impact of the lockdown, social distancing and the closure of recreational venues on rates of HIV transmission is not likely be known for some time following the widespread recommencement of testing,” said Mr O’Hare.
“HIV Ireland will continue to play a prominent role in promoting testing and other preventive measures as services return,” he added. “We are particularly pleased to be recommencing our MPOWER Rapid HIV Testing Programme for gay and bisexual men and men who have sex with men at our premises on Eccles St, Dublin, details of which are available on Facebook and on our website” he added.
The ‘Now, more than ever…’ campaign will commence on Irish AIDS Day and run online throughout the rest of Pride Month.
For additional comment or to arrange an interview, please contact Stephen O’Hare, Executive Director of HIV Ireland on 085 711 26 35, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for Editors
For provisional data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre on the rate of new HIV notifications in 2019, see: https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/hivandaids/
HIV Terminology Guidelines: http://bit.ly/HIVterminology