Minister for Health Simon Harris confirms PrEP programme to be introduced in Ireland by end of 2019

The PrEP programme, found to be "safe, effective, and cost-saving" will be implemented in Ireland in Autumn by the Minister.

simon harris stand in front of building PrEP

Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister for Health Promotion Catherine Byrne have committed to implementing a PrEP HIV prevention programme in Ireland in 2019.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) advised the Minister for Health that the successful implementation of a national PrEP programme in Ireland would be “safe, effective and cost-saving.”

In the above press release, the minister commented, “We want to reduce the number of new HIV diagnoses in Ireland. Increasing the availability of PrEP will help us to do so. This report not only confirms that PrEP can help to prevent HIV amongst those who are high risk, it also shows how a PrEP programme could save money.”

Minister of State Catherine Byrne said: “The publication of this HIQA report is a significant step in the introduction of a PrEP programme in Ireland in 2019.

“As the report notes, many of the people who would stand to benefit from a PrEP programme are from vulnerable or stigmatised groups in our society, so it is important that we continue to work to reach out and encourage more people to get tested and avail of the treatments and supports available.”

The new report from HIQA explained that most side effects of PrEP are minor and that prevention programmes will cost less than treating HIV.

HIQA’s Director of Health Technology Assessment and Deputy Chief Executive, Dr Máirín Ryan, commented: “HIV infection remains a significant public health concern. There were 492 diagnoses of HIV notified in Ireland in 2017. Just over half of all notifications were in men who have sex with men.”

Ryan noted that the largest barriers to the effective implementation of PrEP programmes in Public STI clinics are related to infrastructure and staffing.

Ryan says that significant investment will be required to ensure sustainable and equitable services to communities. The HIQA reported that staff shortages were cited by all 18 public STI clinics in a recent survey with many services also limited due to the lack of availability of clinic space and time.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), in conjunction with the HPSC, have estimated that the total number of people living with HIV in Ireland is 7,200.

PrEP is available in at least 49 countries worldwide with eleven countries providing the medication through national programmes. European countries with national programmes in place include Belgium, France, Norway, Portugal and Scotland.

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