Ten people are diagnosed with HIV every week in this country and HIV Ireland has said the incoming government must take urgent action to address the crisis.
“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,” said its executive director, Niall Mulligan.
Mr Mulligan pointed out that new HIV diagnoses nationally have increased by 35% since 2011.
According to provisional data from the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre, 498 people last year were diagnosed with HIV, compared to 372 in 2014, a 34% increase.
Mr Mulligan said the worrying upward trend continued this year with 175 provisional diagnoses to date, compared to 106 last year — a 65% increase.
“Ireland now has an average of 10 people per week being diagnosed with HIV,” he said. “Some people believe the increase in new diagnoses is because more people are getting tested, but I think the problem is much deeper than that.”
HIV affects a range of at-risk groups, including men who have sex with men, intravenous drug users, and migrants. More than one in three of new transmissions were through heterosexual sexual contact last year.
HIV also affects both younger and older people — with 44 young people aged between 14 and 24 and 32 people aged over 50 years diagnosed with HIV in 2014.
There is a concern, however, that official figures are likely to understate the scale of the crisis. According to the World Health Organisation, 30% of people living with HIV are undiagnosed.
HIV Ireland has been providing community testing in Dublin since 2013 and is currently developing a similar testing project in the northeast. This service has a detection rate of one HIV positive result for every 80 people tested.
Mr Mulligan said HIV Ireland believed it could reverse the trend in diagnoses with a national prevention and awareness campaign.
However, the Government had to play its part, by investing in public awareness on transmission and prevention, together promotion of condom use and provision of free condoms.
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