A new mobile HIV and STI screening service for Leinster has been officially launched by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar today. The service, known as “Equal: Check and Chat” will provide rapid HIV and other STI screening services at community locations in Dublin and surrounding counties.
Inviting the Taoiseach to cut the ribbon at a launch event on the grounds of Dublin Castle, Mr Bernard Condon, Chairperson of HIV Ireland said:
“As a signatory to the Paris Declaration on Fast-Track Cities, the Government has committed to ending new HIV transmissions in major urban areas by the end of the decade. By expanding the availability of testing services to connect directly with communities, this initiative further enhances Ireland’s overall prospect of achieving those aims.”
A joint initiative of community-based charitable organisations HIV Ireland and AIDS Care Education and Training (ACET), the service was funded through a major grant award by Gilead Sciences under their “Zeroing In” community grants programme.
Speaking at the event, Dr Julian Cole, Country Medical Director at Gilead Sciences UK and Ireland, said:
“Gilead’s vision is to end the HIV epidemic, but we can only do that if the whole of society works together. Gilead has been recently named as the number one philanthropic funder of HIV-related programmes globally and we are proud to support the Equal: Check and Chat mobile screening service. Together with HIV Ireland and ACET, we hope this project establishes best practice in engaging underserved communities and makes a meaningful contribution to Ireland’s goal of ending HIV transmissions by 2030.”
The service, which will be staffed by a full-time project coordinator and part time outreach worker will work directly with communities to provide testing and information on HIV and STIs. Peer volunteers will be trained as community testers enhancing engagement with target communities. Medical support and oversight will be provided by health care professionals and hospital/clinic-based services, including the Mater Hospital STI Clinic, where individuals identified through the screening service in need of further treatment and support will be referred for care.
Highlighting the many advantages of bringing mobile screening services directly to communities, including the traditionally underserved Black and migrant communities who connect with their organisation, ACET Chief Executive Mr Richard Carson said:
“The van has been designed to facilitate friendly, efficient testing options, free at the point of use to multiple communities. The project broadens the reach of HIV Ireland and ACET into community settings around Leinster where sections of our community experience barriers to accessing face-to-face screening services. Having the van pull up at a local community centre to offer out-of-hours, accessible and culturally appropriate screening services, provided in a friendly non-judgmental way, can only improve rates of testing for HIV and STIs among communities which continue to face a range of systemic and structural barriers in accessing health services.”
Additional funding for the project was secured from pharma company GSK-ViiV and from Certified Proud, the network of companies supporting LGBTI+ equality.
Notes to Editors
For interview, contact Stephen O’Hare, Executive Director HIV Ireland on 0857112635, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos from the event will be distributed to photo desks following the event by Gareth Chaney, photographer.
The ‘Equal: Check and Chat’ vehicle is a Fiat Ducato Maxi XLH3 2.2 160bhp Tecnico model which has been enhanced to serve as a clinic. This includes the installation of a dedicated waiting area and clinic room using hospital grade material.
This project is timely as in recent years, Ireland has seen an upward trajectory in the number of newly notified HIV cases. In 2019, data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) indicated that for the third year in a row, the number of newly notified HIV cases in Ireland continued 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 from 2022 indicate that, post Covid, newly notified cases have risen to more than 850 per year.
HIV Ireland works to reduce the prevalence of HIV in Ireland and reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination. We provide support, counselling and outreach to people living with HIV. We also provide targeted preventive services to people at risk of HIV including gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men, transgender people, Black and minority ethnic groups, migrants, asylum seekers, sex workers and people who inject drugs. Preventive services include education and awareness raising on HIV/STIs, rapid HIV testing, HIV self-test services, condom distribution and outreach services. We also provide education/training for health and social care professionals and community organisations.
AIDS Care Education and Training (ACET)
ACET Ireland runs a range of projects supporting those most vulnerable to HIV. ACET provide practical and emotional support to individuals and families impacted by HIV and addiction in Dublin. This includes a broad suite of activities including respite, counselling, and support. ACET works alongside communities of migrant background, including faith communities and their leaders, acting as a bridge for these communities to health services both in Dublin but also through networks that reach across the country.