HIV stigma persists in Ireland

New data from HIV Ireland shows that many Irish people are still living with the stigma that surrounds a positive diagnosis.

Stephen O'Hare at the launch of HIV Ireland's annual report
Image: HIV Ireland via Twitter

“An end to HIV-related stigma is achievable.”

In a press release by HIV Ireland on Monday, November 15, the charity revealed that they have received a 49% increase in calls since COVID-19 struck and those reaching out for support are facing harsh stigma for their status.

“An end to HIV-related stigma is achievable,” said Mr Bernard Condon, the Chair of HIV Ireland. “However, in practical terms, this means addressing the underlying causes of stigma, ensuring that people living with HIV have equal, unfettered access to services and that no one is unfairly deprived of opportunities based on their HIV status.”

“What we need to do is reduce the incidence of HIV-related stigma, because we will not reduce HIV transmission without tackling stigma,” said Executive director of HIV Ireland, Stephen O’Hare.  “If you don’t tackle stigma, you’re not going to get your HIV transmission to go downwards.”

On the 2020 annual report from HIV Ireland, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said, “HIV Ireland, in partnership with the HSE, are playing a vital role in implementing our National Sexual Health Strategy. This is evidenced by the large and diverse range of activities outlined in the Annual Report launched today.”

The Minister, who was unable to attend the launch of HIV Ireland’s Annual Report due to Covid-19 Cabinet sub-committee commitments, added, “I was particularly struck by the figure of over 2,800 interventions such as advocacy, counselling and information provided in 2020. This figure speaks for itself in terms of the importance of the support HIV Ireland provides in the community.”

The launch of the report coincided with the launch of Glow Red for World AIDS Day, the latest campaign initiative by HIV Ireland. This campaign aims to tackle the impact of stigma for those living with HIV and generally raise awareness.

World AIDS Day takes place on December 1, 2021, and as part of the campaign, HIV Ireland has extended an invitation to the Office for Public Works, local authorities, public service providers and businesses to illuminate landmark buildings in red light as a mark of solidarity, while the general public is invited to donate and wear red for the day.

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