Minister Catherine Byrne, T.D. Minister of State at the Department of Health with responsibility for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy launched the 17th Annual All-Ireland Gay Health Forum in Dublin Castle today, May 24 2019.
In her opening speech, the Minister welcomed the partnership approach between statutory services and community organisations along with various organisations attending the forum in advancing the sexual health and wellbeing of gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men (MSM). She highlighted the importance of this partnership for the implementation of the National Sexual Health Strategy.
The Minister said, “The work of the Gay Men’s Health Service and the Gay Health Network, together with its member organisations and the HSE, is essential in improving the lives and health of the gay community. This is a great example of how collaboration and partnership can help us to achieve our shared vision of a Healthy Ireland for all our citizens.”
The forum brings together those who deliver services to the gay community and the community itself to discuss share and acknowledge the developments in the response to HIV and STIs in Ireland.
In the opening address by Ciaran McKinney, Chair of Gay Health Network highlighted the four key messages of this year’s forum: advocating the undetectable = untransmittable (U=U) message, making PrEP free and accessible for all, effective HIV and STI prevention work and the need for adequate funding of sexual health services.
He commended the work of ACT UP for sharing the U=U message and the work of the GMHS for their PrEP monitoring clinic.
With a backdrop of increasing HIV and STI notifications in Ireland disproportionately affecting gay, bisexual and MSM, forum organisers have invited internationally renowned speakers to address delegates on topics such as the game-changing HIV prevention drug PrEP, the revolutionary U=U movement and the foremost academic thinking on the social determinants of sexual ill-health for MSM.
Adam Shanley, MSM Programme Manager at HIV Ireland and Gay Health Forum co-organiser said, “This year we have designed a programme that highlights the incredible advances in HIV treatment and prevention that pave the way in ending new HIV transmissions. We want to focus on the broader social determinants of health which make gay and bisexual men more vulnerable in acquiring HIV and STIs. Ultimately, we want to shine a spotlight on the passionate and committed efforts of the many community organisations, advocates and statutory services working towards improving the sexual health and wellbeing of our community.”
Speaking at the event Bruce Richman, Executive Director of Prevention Access Campaign’s Global Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U) movement said, “Irish activists have been at the forefront of the worldwide U=U movement since the earliest days of the campaign. It’s time now to ensure that every person in Ireland regardless of their HIV status knows the power of this message. Together, we are changing what it means for people with HIV to love, have sex, and conceive children. It’s a radically new world for us and our partners.”
Nathan Sparling Executive Director at HIV Scotland, an organisation that fought for PrEP to be made free and accessible on the Scottish NHS said, “Scotland’s PrEP programme has been a massive success. In the first year, over 1,800 people accessed PrEP – putting their HIV status into their own hands and reducing the number of new transmissions. Having the opportunity to share our experiences, as Ireland begins to shape its PrEP programme, is extremely exciting. From campaigning to the rapid scale-up of provision, and now ensuring everyone who needs PrEP can access it. I hope we can help Ireland by sharing this blueprint of PrEP success.
Prof. Rusi Jaspal Pro-Vice Chancellor at De Montfort University will present his research which explores the complex reasons, rooted in identity, culture and context, which underlie sexual behaviours. Prof. Jaspal said, “We must understand why people engage in behaviours that can put them at risk of HIV. We must develop effective behavioural interventions (based on robust data and evidence) to complement the very effective biomedical tools that we possess in the fight against HIV. My presentation at the conference taps into all of these issues and I very much look forward to important conversations about HIV prevention that will undoubtedly follow on from this extremely important conference.”
HIV prevention, sexual health and wellbeing information for men who have sex with men is available at man2man.ie
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