Taoiseach announces HIV PrEP programme will begin next month

Taoiseach announces HIV PrEP programme will begin next month

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Health Minister Simon Harris and Health Promotion Minister Catherine Byrne have announced that a HIV PrEP programme will begin next month.

The programme will be provided in a number of STI clinics from November 4 and will expand next year, following the announcement of €5.4 million in funding in Budget 2020.

A PrEP programme involves the pre-emptive use of antiretroviral medication to prevent HIV infection within a holistic prevention service.

It involves regular monitoring and testing as well as advice and counselling on safer sex practices.

PrEP will be available free of charge for those who attend an approved service and are found to be at substantial risk for HIV and meet eligibility criteria.

HIQA published a report in June that found PrEP was safe and effective in preventing HIV in people at substantial risk.

Mr Varadkar said the programme will reduce the number of people who contract HIV in the future and thanked the HSE and advocacy groups such as HIV Ireland and LGBT NGOs:

PrEP is just one element of our response to reducing HIV rates; we’ve also prioritised increasing awareness and HIV testing. With this combined approach we reach the people we need to reach and bring down HIV rates in Ireland.

Mr Harris said he hopes it will be the beginning of a new conversation about HIV: " For decades we have confined conversations about HIV to the shadows. Those living with HIV have felt stigmatised and shamed.

"Today, all that changes. From next month, the State will introduce a PrEP programme and confront the increase in cases of HIV in a real and practical way."

Ms Byrne said: "Good sexual health and well-being is important for our overall physical and mental health, and especially so in our young people.

"In addition, many of the people who will benefit from a PrEP programme are from vulnerable or stigmatised groups in our society, so I hope that this announcement today will help us support more people to have positive sexual health outcomes.”

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