New HIV Diagnosis Numbers In Ireland Higher In 2018 Than During AIDS Crisis in '80s And '90s

Last year saw a record number of new diagnoses with activists saying outdated sex education is to blame.

A rubber gloved hand holding a test tube of blood

2018 saw a worrying 531 new HIV diagnosis in Ireland, roughly one every 17 hours – an 8% increase over the number of diagnoses in 2017, and 6% higher than the previous high of 502 diagnoses in 2016. These figures are higher than those reported during the height of the AIDS epidemic.

Noel Donnellon from ACT UP Dublin said in an interview with The Mirror: “We are absolutely in a crisis, we are seeing rising numbers of new diagnoses, in direct opposition with what is happening with the rest of Europe, and it’s not a coincidence that we also have an outdated or non-existent sex education programme compared to other countries too.”

This upward trend is in contrast to declines in other EU countries. In November the ECDC reported that in “the European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA) countries reported a decline in rates of new diagnoses, mainly driven by a 20% decrease since 2015 among men who have sex with men.”

Regarding ways to combat the rise in new HIV diagnosis, Donnellon continued: “PrEP is important, but it’s part of a programme, we need better education, we need more accessible testing services, and we need to tackle the stigma surrounding HIV and getting tested. HIV is still seen as dirty, people use it as a finger-wagging exercise, that it’s self-inflicted, when it’s just not the case.”

ACT UP advocate, Robbie Lawlor, recently appeared on the Late Late Show to share his own experience with HIV in order to raise awareness and combat stigma. During the show, Lawlor admitted: “I hadn’t a clue HIV even existed in Ireland. I didn’t understand how I was getting this diagnosis at all. I didn’t know anyone living with HIV.”

Discussing the stigma still inherent towards those with HIV, ACT UP’s Donnellon continued: “You would never judge someone who was diagnosed with cancer, as a nation we need to remember the ‘H’ in HIV stands for human, and it’s a human issue, not something to judge people for.”

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