Alarming figures from the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC ) which indicate that there has been an eight per cent increase in the number of people in Ireland being newly diagnosed with HIV so far in 2019, are of great concern to AIDS West.
Provisional data from the HPSC indicates that there have been 454 new diagnosis of HIV up to the end of October 2019 – the corresponding figure at the same time last year was 420 new diagnosis. In Ireland, on average, 10 people per week are diagnosed with the condition, however this figure is set to rise. Official figures are likely to understate the number of people living with HIV as, according to Spectrum, the UNAIDS supported modelling tool, 10 per cent of people living with HIV in Ireland are undiagnosed.
From January 2020 AIDS West will be changing its name to Sexual Health West - (www.sexualhealth west.ie )
This year’s theme for World AIDS Day on 1 December, will be “Communities make the difference”. The commemoration of World AIDS Day is an important opportunity to recognize the essential role that communities have played and continue to play in the AIDS response at local, national and international levels. Communities contribute to the AIDS response in many different ways. Their leadership and advocacy ensure that the response remains relevant and grounded, keeping people at the centre and leaving no one behind.
HIV testing is essential for expanding treatment and ensuring that all people living with HIV can lead healthy and productive lives. People who are diagnosed with HIV can receive antiretroviral therapy and live long and healthy lives, with the condition often becoming undetectable, but is essential that people test to know their status.
Manager of AIDS West, Joe McDonagh said that HIV testing is essential.
“People need to be aware of their HIV status and the sooner a person knows their status, the sooner they can start treatment – this then leads to much better long term health outcomes. Early diagnosis is also key, as HIV is often transmitted by people who are unaware that they are HIV Positive”.
“Unfortunately though, many barriers to HIV testing remain. Stigma and discrimination still deters people from taking an HIV test. Access to confidential HIV testing is still an issue of concern. Many people still only get tested after becoming ill and symptomatic. In an attempt to address these issues, AIDS West are expanding access to their Rapid HIV testing programme, which will help people to know their HIV status by offering free community based Rapid HIV testing.
“AIDS West is a partner in the HSE national KnowNow Community based Rapid HIV testing programme – an initiative that has proven successful in reaching people who have not previously tested for HIV,” said Mr McDonagh.
“We offer free Rapid HIV Testing on the last Tuesday of each month in the Teach Solais Resource Centre at the top of Merchants Road in Galway, and we will continue to offer additional free Rapid HIV Testing in community based locations across the region from January 2020 – please see www.aidswest.ie for more information”
There has also been an increase in the number of new diagnosis of sexually transmitted infections so far in 2019 including a rise in Chlamydia (+20% ), Gonorrhoea (+22% ), Herpes (+4% )and Syphilis (+59% ) , therefore it is even essential that we must continue to implement, support and promote comprehensive education and prevention measures, including the sexual health education programmes that the AIDS West WISER team (West of Ireland Sex Education Resource ) team have developed – see www.bewiser.ie for more info.
To help raise awareness around HIV and to help challenge the stigma and discrimination that still exists, AIDS West are holding their annual World AIDS Day Concert at St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church on Sunday 1st December 2019 at 8:00pm.
“We are delighted that our friends Cois Cladaigh and Bel Canto will once again be performing at the concert. The concert is open to all and admission is free,” said Mr McDonagh.
If you would like to find out more about the concert or speak to someone at AIDS West about booking a free Rapid HIV Test please call 091 566266 or e: [email protected] for more information