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HIV Ireland Press Release for Irish AIDS Day (15th June 2015)

HIV Ireland Press Release for Irish AIDS Day (15th June 2015)

11 June 2015


Today is World Aids Day. For more than 30 years Ireland has been living with HIV/Aids. It is time to begin a conversation that speaks the truth about HIV and that challenges society on how to respond to HIV. This conversation is crucial if we are to tear down the fear and prejudice that still surrounds people who live with HIV, a fear and prejudice that is more widespread here than we may want to believe. Given the 7,000-plus men and women who were diagnosed HIV-positive in Ireland since the 1980s, a significant number of whom died due to Aids, this conversation is long overdue.
HIV Ireland calls for additional resources to cope with increasing HIV infections in Ireland
When it comes to talk of HIV & AIDS, it is fair to say we are being deafened by silence, a silence that has the potential to accelerate rather than alleviate the harm that HIV is causing in today’s Ireland.

While we know there has been a significant and welcome improvement in treatment for HIV, we also know there is great cause for concern in the rising numbers of newly diagnosed – 344 people in 2013, 377 people in 2014 (11% increase on 2013) and 168 people to date in 2015 (HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre data).

These figures show that HIV continues to disproportionately impact on men who have sex with men (183; 49%). There remain a sizeable number of heterosexual people contracting HIV in Ireland (125; 33%) and it is worrying that a recent trend of reducing HIV infections amongst people who inject drugs has seen an unexpected reversal (27; 7%). This all needs to be monitored closely.

HIV Ireland calls for the publication of the National Sexual Health Strategy so that a clear policy framework can support our work. The publication of a new strategy will go a long way in supporting the excellent statutory and NGO partnership of the Sexual Health Communications Network chaired by the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme.  A very significant and welcome practical outcome from this partnership work is the National Condom Project recently announced by the HSE. Condoms remain a vital aspect of preventing HIV transmission. HIV Ireland welcomes this initiative as key to making condoms more accessible across Ireland. We have equally seen, and welcome, continuing HSE support for the joint Gay Health Network/HSE Man2Man programme in response to the worrying HIV figures amongst MSM. However, for the new strategy to be effective, it must be properly resourced. Across Ireland we need extra resources for testing services, for training and education work, for treatment and prevention work. As HIV figures increase we cannot afford to stand still.

For many people, memories of HIV & AIDS date back to the 1980’s. In 2015, the landscape has changed significantly. Once diagnosed, and receiving treatment, people with HIV can live healthy and fulfilling lives. The word AIDS no longer holds the fear it once did. We now know that AIDS cases in Ireland have been greatly reduced over the years due to the availability of anti-retroviral therapies. While AIDS undoubtedly remains a reality for some people, preventing HIV transmission and living with HIV are now the more pressing issues for many.

But silence remains a challenge. We must open up and talk about HIV to ensure all people are aware of the implications of contracting it and the risks of not knowing their status. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates over 30% of people who are HIV positive in the world don’t know they are. The risk of onward transmission is obvious. Since the early days of HIV & AIDS in Ireland, many individuals and groups across the country have consistently responded to the challenges that HIV has brought – the sense of being alone when first diagnosed, the stigma and discrimination that people who are living with HIV can experience, the reality of losing friends to HIV, the social fear that surrounds HIV and isolates people living with HIV from wider society. And the silence that persists.

HIV Ireland believes it is time to break that silence. According to Niall Mulligan, HIV Ireland’s Executive Director, ‘It is crucial we tear down the fear and silence that continue to surround people who live with HIV. The impact AIDS has had on Irish society must never be forgotten. However, it is now time to focus on HIV, to have a conversation about HIV and the impact it continues to have on the lives of so many people in Ireland today. For the 377 people who were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2014, and for the 168 people newly diagnosed so far this year, it is a conversation that has only just begun’. For information about HIV, testing, safer sex and support please visit - www.hivireland.ie;www.man2man.iewww.positivenow.ie

End

For further information please contact:

Niall Mulligan,

Executive Director

HIV Ireland

70 Eccles Street

Dublin 7

 

Mobile:  085 7457951

Tel: 01 8733799

Email: niall.mulligan@hivireland.ie

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