Gay Mens Health Service closure causes further concern as its PrEP services are discontinued

Delays in the reintroduction of the service would have a massive impact on the wellbeing of many in the community.

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There have been serious concerns expressed over the continued closure of the GMHS (Gay Mens Health Service), but also to the recent news that its PrEP services are to be discontinued.

Speaking with GCN about the potential impact of the decision, Adam Shanley of HIV Ireland and the MPOWER Programme said: HIV Ireland and the MPOWER Programme is acutely concerned about the continued indefinite closure of testing and treatment services at the Gay Mens Health Service. Today’s additional decision to discontinue PrEP services at GMHS has further deepened our concerns and has led us to formally engage with HSE decision-makers on the move. 

“GMHS offered testing, treatment, vaccination and prevention services to nearly 12,000 gay and bisexual men and trans folk in 2019. The introduction of the free PrEP Programme saw hundreds of service users start on the HIV prevention drug since its launch late last year. However, these advances are at risk of being lost due to the continued indefinite closure of GMHS and instead we are facing crisis levels of new HIV and STI cases.

“As we move into a period where demands on the health service are certain to increase, we have written to HSE decision-makers to advocate for the reintroduction and continued maintenance of sexual health service provision at GMHS and have highlighted the urgent need for the sexual health of gbMSM to be recognised as a priority. 

“Delays in the reintroduction of these services will have a substantial negative impact on the sexual health and wellbeing of our community members.”

Shanley continued, “At the end of last week, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre confirmed that there were 357 HIV notifications so far this year, roughly on par with notifications for the same week last year (389). This is alarming considering testing services have been dramatically scaled back yet new notifications have remained steady.

“While we continue to battle COVID-19, we must remember that the HIV epidemic in Ireland is continuing. The key difference between the two is that we have all of the tools we need to end new HIV transmissions – one of which is PrEP. PrEP is 99% effective at preventing HIV, the introduction of a free PrEP programme last year saw a considerable effort in ramping up prevention efforts but the closure of the busiest PrEP service in the country will counteract initial gains and will undoubtedly have an impact on HIV rates in the short term.”

The MPOWER outreach team are available to offer you information, support and advice on accessing PrEP and other sexual health services during this time. The MPOWER outreach team can be contacted by phone, WhatsApp, email, and on Grindr.

© 2020 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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