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Average age of HIV diagnosis for gay and bisexual men has fallen to 32

Committee on Health and Children today, who will be focusing on advances in testing opportunities for HIV and enhancing engagement with health services,

Image: AP/Press Association Images

THERE NEEDS TO be a rethink around HIV prevention for gay and bisexual men, says GLEN, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network.

Speaking ahead of a meeting of the Committee on Health and Children today that will be focusing on advances in testing opportunities for HIV and enhancing engagement with health services, Tiernan Brady, Director of Gay HIV Strategies (GHS) with GLEN said that a new strategic approach to HIV in Ireland needs to be established.

Goals

The goal of zero new cases of HIV and zero discrimination against people living with HIV needs to be a priority, said Brady, adding: 

It is clear from the latest figures that HIV is an issue of critical concern for gay and bisexual men. The figures for 2014 show that gay and bisexual men are the group most likely to acquire HIV in Ireland. 

Figures released by the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) show that there were 205 newly diagnosed cases of HIV in Ireland in the first 6 months of 2014. Of these, 94 new diagnoses were gay and bisexual men, up from 82 cases for the same period in 2013.

New cases 

Gay and bisexual men under the age of 35 now make up 6 out of every 10 new cases of HIV.

Between 2005 and 2013 there has been a four‐fold increase in the number of new diagnoses among those aged between 25‐34 years.

The average age of HIV diagnosis for gay and bisexual men has fallen to 32 years from 37 years in 2005.

“There is a need for a rethink in our approaches. Our strategic goals must be zero new cases of HIV and zero discrimination against people living with HIV” continued Brady, adding:

A new programme with clear goals and targets, properly resourced, will need to increase the number and variety of testing opportunities targeting gay and bisexual men. Early diagnosis can significantly improve a person’s long term health outcomes. It can also be a significant factor in reducing onward transmission of HIV to others as the majority of new cases are passed on by people who do not know they are HIV positive.

Speaking ahead of today’s meeting, Committee Chairman Jerry Buttimer  said that with World AIDS Day taking place next Monday, it timely to focus on a number of HIV issues, in particular advances in testing opportunities for HIV and enhancing engagement with health services.

“HIV is a preventable and treatable condition, so it is important that we encourage and help people to be proactive about looking after their sexual health and to engage with health services. Great strides have been made in testing technologies and early diagnosis is crucial in improving the long-term health outcomes for people and preventing further transmission of HIV,” he said.

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