Highest recorded figure of newly notified cases of HIV expected before year end, say HIV Ireland
Embargo – Thursday 1 December 2022, 00.01am
HIV Ireland has today called for increased investment in nationwide sexual health services, including personnel and resources, to ensure Ireland can meet its global commitment to end new HIV transmissions. Statistics published weekly by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre indicate that more 750 cases of HIV have been notified in 2022, more than double the number for the same period in 2021. However, despite the increase in notifications, falling rates of new transmissions occurring within Ireland give cause for optimism.
The HPSC records newly notified case as those who have recently acquired the virus together with people already living with the virus and transferring their care to Ireland.
“Under diagnosis of HIV remains a concern. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has said that an estimated 1 in 8 people living with HIV in the EU/EEA area remain undiagnosed,” said Stephen O’Hare Executive, Director of HIV Ireland.
“In order to decrease the number of undiagnosed cases,” continued Mr O’Hare, “timely access to early testing and subsequent linkage to care is vital.”
“While treatment for HIV is available free at the point of use in the public health system in Ireland, barriers to accessing testing persists,” he added.
This year, UNAIDS has called on the world to unite to end the inequalities that underpin and perpetuate HIV transmission, including increasing investment in new strategies and user-friendly approaches to more widely available HIV testing, treatment and prevention to improve early diagnosis, end new HIV transmissions, and end AIDS-related deaths.
The stigma and exclusion faced by people living with HIV and marginalised populations remains a significant barrier to accessing testing, treatment uptake, adherence to medication and seeking support.
HIV-related stigma still persists including among health care professionals. Research conducted this year by Dr Elena Vaughan of NUI Galway and supported by HIV Ireland found that among healthcare workers who were not HIV specialists, 83% claimed knowledge of ‘Undetectable = Untransmittable’ (U=U) and treatment as prevention. However, 40% said they would still be nervous about drawing blood from a person living with HIV leading to unnecessary ‘extra’ precautions, e.g., excessive use of PPE.
This year, HIV Ireland is once again promoting its Glow Red for World AIDS Day campaign to shine a light on the impact of HIV-related stigma. Over 40 buildings and landmarks around Ireland will light up in red to show their support and to mark 40 years since the first reports of HIV and AIDS on our shores.
HIV stigma is real and ending HIV stigma is a real possibility. As internationally renowned Irish HIV activist and ambassador of this year’s Glow Red campaign, Rebecca Tallon de Havilland, has said, “We can end stigma by strengthening the voices of people living with HIV. Using my voice has empowered me to overcome self-stigma and live my best life.”
For interview and/or comment contact Stephen O’Hare, Executive Director, HIV Ireland, 0857112635 email@example.com
HIV & STI Weekly Report, Health Protection Surveillance Centre: https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/sexuallytransmittedinfections/publications/stireports/stiweeklyreports/
HIV Ireland’s Glow RED campaign #GLOWRED4WAD: www.hivireland.ie/glowred