Large increase in number of people living with HIV seeking advocacy and support services, report finds
15th November 2021
There has been a sharp rise in the number of people living with HIV seeking support and advocacy services since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Calls to HIV Ireland rose 49% in 2020 even as in-person support and counselling services were restricted, with most contacts reportedly occurring online or by telephone.
Commenting on the 2020 HIV Ireland Annual Report, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said: “HIV Ireland, in partnership with the HSE, are playing a vital role in implementing our National Sexual Health Strategy. This is evidenced by the large and diverse range of activities outlined in the Annual Report launched today. I was particularly struck by the figure of over 2,800 interventions such as advocacy, counselling and information provided in 2020. This figure speaks for itself in terms of the importance of the support HIV Ireland provides in the community.”
Speaking at the launch, Chair of HIV Ireland Mr Bernard Condon welcomed the Minister’s words and noted that many of the requests for support received by the organisation arose because of the stigma attached to HIV across society. “An end to HIV-related stigma is achievable”, said Mr Condon. “However, in practical terms, this means addressing the underlying causes of stigma, ensuring that people living with HIV have equal, unfettered access to services and that no one is unfairly deprived of opportunities based on their HIV status,” he added.
“The increase in demand for services” continued Mr Condon, “highlights the need for greater investment in services directed towards people living with HIV, including advocacy, counselling and mental health supports.”
The event coincided with the launch of HIV Ireland’s latest campaign initiative, Glow Red for World AIDS Day. The campaign seeks to raise awareness of HIV and in particular, the impact of HIV-related stigma. As part of its campaign, the organisation has invited the Office for Public Works, local authorities, public service providers and businesses to illuminate landmark buildings in red light across Ireland to coincide with World AIDS Day, 1st December 2021. Members of the public are also invited to show their support for the campaign by wearing red and donating to HIV Ireland, a registered charity. The organisation has also produced a commemorative enamel pin with all proceeds used to further the work of the organisation to combat HIV-related stigma, promote prevention and support people living with HIV.