An important initiative launches today, November 21, promoting HIV self-testing among higher education students in Ireland.
As part of European Testing Week, and in a collaboration between HIV Ireland and the Union of Students of Ireland (USI), the campaign aims to educate students about the benefits of regular testing and how to access free at-home testing kits.
Students are at a high risk of HIV exposure, and the best way to protect one’s sexual health is to know your HIV status. USI Vice President for Welfare, Sarah Behan, said, “Regular testing is very much a key part of preventing new HIV acquisitions.”
The target audience is LGBTQ+ people enrolled in further and higher education. During the launch, Executive Director of HIV Ireland, Stephen O’Hare, shared: “For the past two years, opportunities to promote HIV testing and awareness has been extremely limited in further and higher education settings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the return to campus life for many students this term coincides with a significant increase in the numbers of newly notified cases of HIV and STIs this year.”
As of September 30, free HIV self-testing kits are available in every county in Ireland. After completing a quick online screening, STI test kits are mailed in a plain envelope. Tests can be completed at home and results are sent via text or phone call.
Self-tests are free and easy to use.
— HIV Ireland (@HIVIreland) November 21, 2022
Testing greatly reduces the spread of HIV and other STIs, and providing students with the option to self-test is particularly beneficial because it can reduce the stress and stigma associated with scheduling an in-person appointment.
The HSE is anticipating an increase in tests requested during European Testing Week which takes place from November 21-28. To accommodate the expected increase in tests requested, additional self-test kits are available through the MPOWER online ordering portal. MPOWER works to reduce the acquisition of HIV and STIs and improve the sexual health among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM).
The initiative is funded by the HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability Integration and Youth under the LGBTI+ Equality Strategy fund.
Self-testing is free, quick, and easy and kits can be requested here.
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