HIV diagnoses in Ireland reached an all-time high in 2018, according to figures released earlier this week by the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre. At 531, HIV diagnoses in 2018 increased by 8% over the number of diagnoses in 2017, and are 6% higher than the previous high of 502 diagnoses in 2016.
This upward trend is in contrast to declines in other EU countries. In November the ECDC reported that in “the European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA) countries reported a decline in rates of new diagnoses, mainly driven by a 20% decrease since 2015 among men who have sex with men.”
ACT UP Dublin member Andrew Leavitt said, “Seeing HIV diagnoses in Ireland rising like this is simply unacceptable. Despite some recent steps forward, Ireland is failing to make progress in bringing down the number of new HIV diagnoses.
Leavitt continued, “We’ve been waiting for years for PrEP in Ireland, and this is the predictable result of the delay. The Government has committed to rolling out a national PrEP programme in the next few months. These figures underscore the need for the HSE to act swiftly to make PrEP easy to access everywhere in the country.”
Five hundred and thirty one newly reported HIV diagnoses in Ireland over 52 weeks of 2018 (provisional figures) released today by @hpscireland – @SimonHarrisTD – there can be no delay rolling out PrEP program in 2019 to those with higher vulnerability to #HIV #PrEP4Ireland
— Will St Leger 🔺 (@WillStLeger) January 2, 2019
In addition to making PrEP available, access to HIV testing must be greatly expanded. Ireland has a high rate of late diagnoses, reflecting low rates of HIV testing. Community-based HIV testing programmes like the successful KnowNow project should be expanded, rapid HIV testing should be available for free through GPs, and free HIV self-testing kits should be provided—along with robust support services—to help increase rates of HIV testing in Ireland.
Finally, a nationwide campaign is needed to raise awareness and educate the public on the realities of HIV today. Today’s HIV treatments allow people with HIV to live full, healthy lives. And we know that effective treatment not only keeps people living with HIV healthy but prevents transmission of the virus to sexual partners. It’s crucial that these messages be promoted, to help combat HIV-related stigma, and to encourage people to get tested.
Free HPV Vaccine For MSM Under 45
The HPV vaccine will help to prevent HPV infection which can cause genital warts and HPV-associated cancers.
HPV infection is a very common infection. The majority of HPV infections do not cause any symptoms and infections usually clear up on their own.
In Ireland, a HPV programme for all girls in 1st year of second level schools has been in place since May 2010. The national HPV vaccine programme may be extended to adolescent boys in the future.
In July 2018, the National Immunisation Committee (NIAC) recommended the HPV vaccine for men and women living with HIV up to and including 26 years of age and for all men who have sex with men (MSM), including MSM living with HIV, up to and including 45 years of age.
The vaccine is available through many STI and HIV clinics. Ask a nurse or doctor at your clinic for more information.
For more information, visit sexualwellbeing.ie
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