'We must continue to do more' - Harris marks World Aids Day

'We must continue to do more' - Harris marks World Aids Day

Events are taking place across the globe today to mark World Aids Day.

It is the 31st year of the event which aims to raise awareness of the condition and remember those who have died as a result of the disease.

The theme of this year’s global event is recognition of the important role that communities play in responding to the HIV challenge.

Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister for Health Promotion Catherine Byrne paid tribute to the partnership work between health services and community groups which resulted in the introduction of a HIV PrEP programme last month, as well as Ireland signing up to a global HIV Fast Track Cities initiative earlier in the year.

There has been significant development this year with the start of a HIV PrEP (PRON: prep) programme, which aims to reduce the number of people who contract HIV in future.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said that World Aids Day is a day "when we take stock of where we are in the fight against HIV".

"This year we were pleased to launch two major initiatives to intensify our response to HIV in Ireland. The first of these saw Ireland joining the Fast Track Cities global initiative which is aimed at boosting HIV prevention and treatment, and reducing stigma.

"In keeping with the theme of this year’s World Aids Day, ‘Communities Make The Difference’, the funding provided for this will support community HIV awareness and testing in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway, as well as a national stigma reduction campaign," he said.

Mr Harris said that the most significant development in 2019 was the start of a HIV PrEP programme, which will reduce the number of people who contract HIV in future.

The programme is now up and running at a number of sites and will expand further in 2020 following investment from Budget 2020.

“Of course, we must continue to do more. In 2020, we will review and renew our Sexual Health Strategy and we will outline our goals in this area.”

Minister for Health Promotion Catherine Byrne said:

"This day provides us with a welcome opportunity to remember those who have been lost to AIDS-related illnesses, and to remind ourselves of the need to keep focusing on what we can do to strengthen our efforts in the area of prevention and support for those living with HIV.

Good sexual health and well-being is important for our overall physical and mental health, and especially so in our young people. Reducing stigma and supporting education and sexual health promotion is vital to ensure everyone enjoys positive sexual health outcomes.

"This year’s World Aids Day theme focuses on the role of the community and I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our partners such as the HSE, NGOs and local partners, advocacy and community groups who are working with us to improve sexual health and HIV prevention," she said.

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