Gay Project Ireland has set up a petition calling on the HSE and the Minister for Health to make PrEP and HIV testing available in Cork.
In November 2019, a nationwide PrEP programme was put into effect by the Department of Health. As part of Budget 2020, the initiative ensured people would have free access to the medication. However, due to the absence of a HIV prevention clinic, Cork was excluded from the scheme.
Gay Project Director, Pádraig Rice, outlined why he set up the petition ‘Make PrEP available in Cork’ on Change.org, “We have been told for some time that a PrEP clinic would be open in Cork University Hospital – but there has been no movement since last year. I’ve been told locally that the problem rests with HSE HQ, but HSE HQ are saying its a local staffing issue. Despite lots of emails and letters no one has given me a clear answer or timeline as to when it will be sorted. That’s why I started the petition.”
The petition emphasises “access to healthcare shouldn’t be a postcode lottery.” There are currently 375 signatures, with a goal of reaching 500. As Rice further adds, “There’s a growing frustration that people’s friends in Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Waterford can access PrEP for free via the HSE programme but we are expected to pay privately for it in Cork. There’s a huge issue here around equality of access.”
In partnership with the Sexual Health Centre, the Gay Project has been providing free rapid HIV tests monthly. The group has advocated tirelessly for the U = U (undetectable = untransmittable) message. Due to being overlooked in the implementation of the PrEP rollout, they are now calling on the Minister for Health and HSE for immediate action.
Rice highlighted the importance of Cork being included in the PrEP rollout, “We know that PrEP is safe, very effective and cost saving. HIV rates in some communities in London have fallen by 70% in two years thanks to the roll out of PrEP and rapid testing. PrEP needs to be made available in Cork in the same way that it is elsewhere. We can’t and won’t be left behind. I’d be really grateful if people would consider adding their voice to this issue by signing the petition.”
If you would like to support the campaign to call on the HSE and Minister for Health to take action towards providing Cork with PrEP and effective HIV treatment, you can sign over on Change.org by following this link.
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