HIV Ireland calls for increased availability of PrEP as Irish cases rise

Newly notified cases of HIV in the country have reportedly doubled in comparison to the first six months of last year.

PrEP medication as endorsed by HIV Ireland.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

HIV Ireland has called on the Irish Government to increase the availability of PrEP in the country as cases of the virus continue to rise. The organisation released a statement on Irish AIDS Day (June 15), urging for further “funding and resources to ensure timely and barrier free access to PrEP services.”

This comes as it is being reported by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC) that newly notified cases of HIV in the country have doubled from 145 in the first six months of last year, to 293 in the same period during 2022. According to HIV Ireland, in order to cope with this rise, more resources are needed.

“PrEP [pre-exposed prophylaxis] is highly effective at preventing a person who is HIV negative from acquiring HIV through sexual intercourse and is a vital component in our strategy to reduce HIV transmissions,” said Executive Director of HIV Ireland Stephen O’Hare.

“Delays in access to services is detrimental to communities and will further reduce Ireland’s ability to meet its ambitious target of ending new HIV transmissions by 2030,” he added.

According to research published by the organisation earlier this year, there are ongoing difficulties with accessing PrEP, and the Covid-19 pandemic severely impacted this. Adam Shanley, co-author of the EMERGE Study and MPOWER Programme Manage stated: “The continued increase in waiting times risks eroding the high degree of enthusiasm for PrEP among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men in Ireland as frustration with the overburdened system sets in.

“A successful national HIV prevention strategy depends heavily on timely and barrier free access to services. We know from other jurisdictions that long waiting times for PrEP may be associated with increased vulnerability to acquiring HIV for those on waiting lists, and further risks entirely preventable onward transmissions.”

The call to Irish Government was made ahead of a webinar that HIV Ireland and GCN are hosting to mark Irish AIDS Day 2022. The event, ‘These Fragile Lives – The role of communities in memorialising HIV and AIDS in Ireland,’ will hear from speakers and stakeholders with a long history in activism and of working at the forefront of the epidemic, particularly during the height of the crisis in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It will begin at 1PM, and is free to attend virtually on GCN’s Facebook and YouTube.

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