It has been 36 years since AIDS was first diagnosed in Ireland and 30 years since the first ever World AIDS Day. Jim Bunn came up with the idea for World AIDS Day with Thomas Netter while they were working as public information officers for WHO.
In the first few years of the commemorative day, homosexuality was still illegal in Ireland and the stigmas attached to the AIDS crisis were affecting people’s access to credible information about the disease.
Mainstream media coverage of the disease was very limited in the 1980s and ’90s. Most of the time when it did receive the coverage it was scaremongering, spin doctor type stories. In 1985, The Nationalist and Leinster Times even went so far as to suggest that it was “not AIDS, but homosexuality that was the killer disease”.
Although a lot of the stigma came from homophobia, a lot also came from fear and this was only compounded with what they were hearing in the media. Everything was very focused on the cause and not the solution, how to protect yourself against the disease was rarely discussed. In Ireland, it was still very taboo to publicly speak about sex in any way.
To combat this, LGBT+ groups were instrumental in providing accurate information about the disease during this time. The first information leaflet was created by the Gay Health Action group in 1985. Another important publication at this time was OUT magazine, Ireland’s first commercial queer publication. Thanks to these subversive publications, information acted as an anecdote: a medicine that didn’t need Government approval.
Know Your Status
The theme of WAD this year is ‘Know Your Status’ which highlights the importance of people getting tested for HIV. A report released by UNAIDS highlighted that only 75% of people living with HIV are aware of their status, meaning that 9.4 million people aren’t aware that they’re HIV Positive as they have not been tested.
Earlier this week, opposition party leaders took a rapid HIV test to highlight the availability of such services.
While today Leo Varadkar became the first Taoiseach to publicly take an HIV test, releasing a video where he takes a Rapid HIV test in order to encourage people to get tested regularly and break the stigma around testing.
Initiatives like KnowNow are helping to increase the rates of early diagnosis which is key in managing the condition.
Offering free, confidential, rapid HIV testing, KnowNow can be accessed in bars, clubs, saunas and community centres across the country. These peer-led, non-clinical sessions deliver results within 60 seconds, thereby eliminating the stress and waiting-times you might find in a doctors office.
To learn about KnowNow, see http://www.knownow.ie/
World AIDS Day Candlelit Memorial Concert
Our friends at AIDS West will hold their annual World AIDS Day Candlelit Memorial Concert on Sunday, December 2. Extending an invitation to all of our community and supporters, St Nicholas Collegiate Church in Galway will play host to a wonderful feast of festive music.
The Galway based world-renowned choir Cois Cladaigh will help herald in the Christmas season in a true spirit of joy and goodwill alongside the beautiful voices of Galway’s Three Sopranos – Bel Canto.
A wonderful way to remember those who may have passed but who will always be with us, the free event is unmissable for those from, or who find themselves, in the west of Ireland.
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