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'A significant gamechanger': PrEP programme to reduce HIV rates being rolled out from today

The pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) treatment is the most recent development in the field of HIV prevention.

Image: Shutterstock/Bowonpat Sakaew

THE HIV PrEP programme is coming into effect today, with campaigners calling it a “gamechanger”. 

The pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) treatment is the most recent development in the field of HIV prevention.

PrEP is a once daily medication that can significantly reduce risk of infection among HIV-negative people at high risk.

People are at high risk of contracting HIV when their partners are HIV-positive or when they have unprotected sex.

The programme will initially be provided in a number of STI clinics from today and will expand next year. 

Now, those who attend an approved service and are found to be at substantial risk of HIV and meet the clinical eligibility criteria will be eligible for PrEP free of charge, dispensed through community pharmacies. 

The programme is being rolled out after the Health Information and Quality Authority earlier this year published a report which found that PrEP is a safe and effective way of preventing HIV in people and substantial risk, and also found that the introduction of a programme would be cost-saving. 

“For decades we have confined conversations about HIV to the shadows. Those living with HIV have felt stigmatised and shamed,” Health Minister Simon Harris said, speaking last month. 

Harris said he hopes this programme will be “the beginning of a new conversation about HIV and one that those living with it are at the centre of”. 

‘Gamechanger’

HIV Ireland’s executive director Stephen O’Hare called the programme a “significant gamechanger” for at-risk communities, but said it is “not a panacea in reducing the spread of HIV”. 

“Increased investment in a range of existing and innovative measures is further required if we are to make meaningful progress in reversing the upward trend of new infections and set Ireland on course towards significant reduction in sexually transmitted HIV,” O’Hare said. 

Such measures must include greater investment in both health and community-based testing services “which are currently bursting at the seam”, he added. 

“Similarly, increased public awareness of HIV and related stigma, and more resources for counselling and community support services are urgently required to meet demand,” he said.

Information for people who think they may be at risk of HIV and are considering taking PrEP can be found here

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