An average of ten people are diagnosed with HIV every week in Ireland.
As new HIV diagnoses in 2018 begin to surpass those of 2017, HIV Ireland, the national charity for HIV advocacy, support and prevention is calling on the Government to act.
According to HIV Ireland a total of 504 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2017, similar to 2016 data of 503 new HIV diagnoses. Provisional data for the first five months of 2018 shows this worrying trend continuing with 212 new HIV diagnoses reported to date [www.hpsc.ie – provisional data]. Ireland has, on average, 10 people per week being diagnosed with HIV.
Official figures are likely to understate the scale of the crisis. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), 15% of people living with HIV in Western Europe are undiagnosed. To reduce the number of undiagnosed people living with HIV, HIV Ireland is calling on the Irish Government to increase resources for free community-based, low threshold, HIV testing.
According to Niall Mulligan, Executive Director of HIV Ireland, “In 2017, HIV Ireland provided free, low threshold, HIV testing to 1089 people across 6 different community sites. Unfortunately, we had to turn away a further 384 people who presented for testing because we didn’t have the resources to cope. It is crucial that we ensure access to free HIV testing is widely available across Ireland. We know regular HIV testing means earlier diagnosis, and earlier access to effective treatment. We also know that effective HIV treatment reduces the virus in the body to undetectable levels, meaning that HIV cannot be passed on to someone else.”
Yesterday HIV advocates Tonie Walsh and Robbie Lawlor appeared on Ireland AM to discuss the Irish HIV epidemic.
ACT UP Dublin and RQR Call For Action
Today ACT UP Dublin and Radical Queers Resist called for action by the Government to increase access to PrEP in Ireland.
While new HIV diagnoses in Ireland remain at record highs, PrEP—a safe and highly effective way of preventing HIV—is too expensive for those who need it. PrEP is widely acknowledged by international health bodies such as WHO and UNAIDS as a key component of effective combination prevention efforts to stem the ongoing epidemic.
PrEP provided by HSE:
Currently only those who can afford to buy it privately can access PrEP in Ireland. Cost should not be a barrier to accessing PrEP, and it’s vital that PrEP be made available through the HSE.
Free & accessible PrEP support services:
Currently only 2 clinics provide routine monitoring and medical support for PrEP users.
Offering comprehensive services for PrEP users will ensure that PrEP is used safely and effectively, and provide valuable information about the needs of PrEP users. Although not ideal, until delays in the HSE funding assessment process can be resolved, a demonstration project—like that promised but never delivered by the HSE in 2016—could be the most practical way to make PrEP widely available.
Fix the broken HSE assessment process:
The HSE’s conventional cost-effectiveness evaluation process has failed to deliver PrEP. There has been no progress in Gilead Sciences’s application for reimbursement for Truvada as PrEP for almost a year. Political leadership is needed to find a way to make PrEP available through HSE immediately, and to reform the HSE cost-effectiveness assessment process to allow it to be driven by public health need and not only commercial interest as is currently the case.
— Radical Queers Resist (@RadQueersResist) June 15, 2018
In their joint statement, ACT UP and RDR added “Health officials say their hands are tied while an internal HSE cost-effectiveness evaluation process is underway, but this process has been stalled for almost a year.
“It’s time to acknowledge that the conventional process isn’t working, that it has failed. It’s time for political leadership from the Government.
“Political officials must stop hiding behind a broken process, they need to show real leadership and find a way to make PrEP available and accessible now.”
To increase national awareness of HIV, HIV Ireland is hosting the inaugural Red Ball in the Guinness Storehouse on Saturday 16th June. Funds raised at the event will help support the work of HIV Ireland, in particular the organisation’s plan to develop a free evening low threshold HIV testing service, and increase counselling hours for people living with HIV. Further information on the event can be seen on hivireland.ie.
To read the community statement published by GHN for Irish AIDS Day, click here
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