Action needed as Cork excluded from nationwide PrEP rollout

On November 4, a nationwide PrEP rollout programme went into effect, however, Cork has been left out. Cork Gay Project calls for immediate action.

Padraig Rice, Director of the Gay Project, speaking with a pen in hand.

The Gay Project has called on the HSE and Department of Health for the immediate open of a HIV prevention clinic in Cork as “a matter of urgency.”

Since November 4, the Department of Health launched a nationwide PrEP programme as part of Budget 2020, however, Cork has been overlooked. The Gay Project Director, Pádraig Rice said, “It’s scandalous that the government have failed to make PrEP available to the people of Cork as part of its new €5.4 million PrEP programmes.”

Rice further stated, “The Government can’t call this a National Programme when there is no provision in the second-largest city – this is a huge, inexcusable gap in coverage.”

Part of the PrEP programme is to ensure that people have free access to the medication. Included in phase one of the rollout, service-users will monitor for side effects, test for HIV and STIs, and provide counselling services. 

Though largely seen as a step forward for healthcare in Ireland, The Gay Project has noted the oversight resulting in Cork being excluded from the programme. Rice said, “We were told there was one planned for Cork University Hospital, but that proposal never materialised. I can’t understand how people at risk of HIV in Cork can be neglected like this. PrEP has the potential to prevent hundreds of new HIV infections. We can’t be left behind – this is too important.”

The Gay Project is calling on Minister for Health Simon Harris to intervene and establish a HIV prevention clinic in Cork. Rice said, “The Minister must intervene to resolve whatever issues may be at play within the HSE here in Cork – including staffing issues.”

Working alongside the Sexual Health Centre, The Gay Project has been providing free, rapid HIV tests once a month. The group has continuously promoted the U=U (undetectable = untransmittable) message.

As Rice states, “These two developments, together with PrEP have the potential to end new HIV transmissions in Ireland – but this PrEP programme must be accessible and truly nationwide. Sadly right now it isn’t.”

© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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