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Calls to address 'crisis' as HIV cases nearly double in first 4 months of the year

There were 175 cases of HIV reported in the first 16 weeks of 2016, compared to 106 in the same period last year.

Image: Shutterstock/Tashatuvango

AN IRISH CHARITY has called for “urgent action” from the incoming government to combat the “spiralling HIV crisis” as the number of people diagnosed with the virus almost doubled in the first four months of 2016.

According to provisional data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), there were 175 cases of HIV reported in the first 16 weeks of 2016, compared to 106 in the same period last year.

This marks a rise of 69, or about 40% in one year. The figures come after provisional figures at the start of the month showed that there were 498 new cases of HIV reported in Ireland in 2015, up from 377 in 2014.

The rising number of cases of HIV being reported represent a “crisis” and need to be tackled immediately by any incoming government, according to charity HIV Ireland.

‘‘One of the first actions of the new Government must be to address the HIV crisis in Ireland,” said Niall Mulligan, executive director of the charity.

HIV Ireland has been working in the areas of prevention, testing, outreach and support for almost 30 years and we are alarmed at the relentless upward trend in HIV diagnoses.

Prevention

On average, there are now about 10 people a week being diagnosed with HIV in Ireland.

The groups most at risk of contracting the virus are men having sex with men (MSM) and intravenous drug users, as well as immigrants.

HIV Ireland said that a “national HIV prevention and awareness campaign” was needed to combat the growing numbers.

“The Government needs to invest in public awareness about how HIV is transmitted and how this can be prevented,” said Mulligan

Voluntary universal testing for HIV should be available nationally, especially within community and healthcare settings.

Early diagnosis of HIV can greatly increase the chances of effective treatment of the illness. The earlier a person is diagnosed, the greater their long-term health prospects can be.

A programme was launched last month aimed at providing free rapid HIV testing in a number of unconventional venues.

The initiative is aimed specifically at gay and bisexual men.

It is a collaboration between Dublin-based GLEN, the Sexual Health Centre in Cork and GOSHH in Limerick. One venue already confirmed is Pantibar on Dublin’s Capel Street.

Read: ‘Don’t go near him, he has HIV, you’ll get it’ – Robbie Lawlor on fighting stigma

Read: New rapid HIV testing project looking to Ireland’s bars and workplaces

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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