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HIV diagnoses reached a record high last year in Ireland

531 cases were diagnosed last year – an 8% increase from 2017.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: Shutterstock/Adam Jan Figel

HIV DIAGNOSES REACHED a record high last year, with 531 cases in 2018 according to figures released by the HSE. 

According to their provisional data, the number is an 8% increase from figures in 2017 and demonstrates an upward trend in diagnoses.

STIs (sexually transmitted infections) diagnoses also rose last year with chlamydia infections increasing by an extra 537 diagnoses from 2017 figures, and Gonorrhoea increasing by 158. 

There was also an increase in diagnoses of genital herpes, syphilis and lympogranuoma venereum (LGV). 

2018 to 2017 STI comparison Source: HSE

ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) Dublin member Andrew Leavitt says, “Seeing HIV diagnoses in Ireland rising like this is simply unacceptable.”

“We’ve been waiting for PrEP [preventative medication for HIV] in Ireland, and this is the predictable result of the delay,” he says in a statement.

“The Government has committed to rolling out a national PrEP programme in the next months. These figures underscore the need for the HSE to act swiftly to make PrEP easy to access everywhere in the country.”

PrEP is a once daily medication that can significantly reduce risk of infection among HIV-negative people at high risk. PrEP had only been available in Ireland on prescription at a price of over €400 a month for the brand-name medication and €100 for the generic medication.

The Health Information Quality Authority (Hiqa) has been carrying out a Health Technology Assessment of a programme which would make the drug free for populations at substantial risk of contracting HIV and who hold a medical card. 

At the time of the assessment’s announcement Minister for Health Simon Harris said, “I am keen to make PrEP, which is a prevention tool, more readily available to those at risk of HIV in Ireland.”

Recent reports from the UK and Australia show significant reductions in new HIV diagnoses when PrEP is widely available, says ACT UP Dublin.

They add that community-based testing programmes like KnowNow project should be expanded and rapid HIV testing should be available for free through GP services and free HIV self-testing kits should be provided.

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