To mark European Testing Week, sexual health activist and Health Office with TENI, Noah Halpin has called on people not born in Ireland to access free HIV treatment.
In a statement to GCN, he said, “I have had a number of recent contacts from people living with HIV, mostly Trans women who engage in sex work who have moved to Ireland in recent years.
“There seems to be a fear amongst people that accessing HIV care in Ireland may result in their immigration status being communicated to relevant authorities, that their profession may be communicated to the Gardai and that there is a financial cost to treatment.”
He points out, “However, what we continue to communicate to this community, is that they can access public HIV services in Ireland without having to fear that any of their details will be shared with another party and that HIV services in Ireland will not result in any financial cost to the individual. That they are safe in accessing services.”
Receiving reports of many people not born in Ireland,living with HIV not accessing public health services for fear of their immigration status,sex work,&/or cost of treatment.
Public HIV services are free regardless of visa status. HSE will never contact immigration or the Gardai
— Noah Halpin (@Noah_Halpin) November 24, 2021
In a tweet earlier today, he pointed out that free HIV treatment is available to anyone in Ireland, regardless of residency status.
“Treatment for HIV in Ireland does not require a PPS number, your immigration status won’t be communicated to the Department of Justice. If your profession is in sex work, that will never be communicated by a hospital to the Gardai. Your treatment will be free of charge.”
It’s #EuroTestWeek! And the wonderful #MPOWER team at @HIVIreland are encouraging gay & bisexual men & trans people across Ireland to test for #HIV.#TakeASelfie – You can order your free HIV home self-test from #MPOWER programme and test for HIV at home: https://t.co/Dh8fP5Vcq3 pic.twitter.com/5bAYPZ1t2d
— Noah Halpin (@Noah_Halpin) November 22, 2021
As part of European Testing Week, MPOWER will be taking orders from gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (including Trans men and non-binary people) through their website all week. They’ll post a free HIV self-test kit out the next day in discreet plain packaging. All it takes is a finger prick and it develops a result within just 15 minutes. The test can be used at a time and in a place that suits the user. The MPOWER team is available to support folks before, during, and after by phone, email, WhatsApp or Zoom, if you need them.
In acknowledging this and other work being done, he said, “I know the wonderful team at MPOWER are doing fantastic outreach work amongst these communities and continue to share this information to those who need it. And that individual clinics have a great relationship with Trans people living with HIV.”
According to their 2020 annual report, HIV Ireland received a 49% increase in calls for their services due to the pandemic. Throughout the year, the charity supported approximately 755 people living with HIV with a total number of 2,878 interventions.
These interventions included advocacy in accessing medication, addressing discrimination, assisting with housing and homelessness, assisting people living in Direct Provision and applying for social protection. They also provide one-to-one support and crisis referral, as well as counselling and legal information.
Despite this upward trend, Noah believes that more can be done. “It would be very encouraging to see the HSE also make an effort to reach people who need this information. I believe that we need to figure out a way to reach the people who need this information most, a campaign in multiple languages perhaps. So that we can ensure that everyone living with HIV has an equal opportunity to avail of the best care and treatment available.”
To order a self-test kit or to book in for a test with MPOWER click here.
To access HIV Ireland services click here.
For more information on Trans supports go to TENI.
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