MPOWER Rapid HIV Testing service recommence today to mark Irish AIDS day

The MPOWER service is restarting as HIV Ireland call on the Government to expand HIV testing services in a new messaging campaign.

MPOWER

MPOWER Rapid HIV Testing service recommences today following its suspension during COVID-19 restrictions. Testing restarts this evening, to mark Irish AIDS Day, June 15.

The MPOWER Rapid HIV Testing service remains a free, confidential, and low-threshold option for gay and bisexual men, and other men who have sex with men, to know their HIV status. However, due to ongoing restrictions, MPOWER have had to adapt the way they offer the service.

The community venues where they previously offered this service continue to be closed, so testing will take place in the community space at the HIV Ireland offices, 70 Eccles Street, Dublin 7 across from the Mater Private Hospital.

MPOWER are unable to offer a walk-in service at this time and so they will only be able to see service users that book an appointment online at hivireland.ie/mpower. The service will take place on Wednesdays 6 – 8 PM and Saturdays 2 – 4 PM with today’s extra session to mark Irish AIDS Day running 6 – 8 pm also.

Online booking goes live 24 hours before the service takes place (i.e. 6pm Tuesday and 2pm Friday). There are a limited number of testing slots available, however, the MPOWER team say they will be keeping an eye on demand and adding testing sessions as needed. In addition, they are working on having the service available in Portuguese and Spanish in the coming weeks.

The reintroduction of this service has been informed by the best public health advice and will be implemented in compliance with Infection Prevention and Control guidance. All staff, volunteers and service users will be required to wear a mask or appropriate face-covering in the building, with hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene and physical distancing maintained throughout.

MPOWER was launched earlier this year at IMMA. The MPOWER Programme is a suite of peer-driven community-level interventions which aim to achieve a reduction in the acquisition of HIV and STIs. For more information see hivireland.ie/mpower.

Invest in expanded HIV testing services to reverse record high levels of new cases’, says HIV Ireland

“The Government should invest in the expansion of HIV testing services if it is serious about reversing record high newly notified HIV cases,” said Mr Stephen O’Hare, Executive Director with HIV Ireland. The remarks coincide with the organisation’s new media messaging campaign to mark Irish AIDS Day, 15 June 2020.

Launched online due to the continued restrictions on public gathering imposed during Phase 2 of the Roadmap on Reopening Society and Business, the campaign seeks to promote the re-evaluation of the current approach to ending HIV transmission in the wake of record-high rates of newly notified cases of HIV and the Government’s robust response to the COVID-19 pandemic

“The scale of the response to COVID-19 is unlikely to be repeated unless the virus returns in more virulent waves” continued Mr O’Hare. “The impact on existing service provision, on our economy and on our society has been stark. There are, however, key lessons to be learned from this experience, which should inform the Government’s approach to HIV prevention, not least the critical value of widespread testing to detect and prevent onward transmission of the virus.”

New (provisional) data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre indicates that for the third year in a row, the number of newly notified HIV cases continues to climb (536 in 2019 – the highest on record) with a corresponding increase in the rate of diagnoses (11.3 per 100,000 of the population). Data published weekly by the HPSC suggests a similar upward trajectory in 2020 with notified cases appearing to exceed the figure for the same period last year.

The ‘Now, more than ever…’ campaign will commence on Irish AIDS Day and run online throughout the rest of Pride Month.

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