Irish AIDS Day: '20% of new Irish HIV diagnoses are women'

Lady Veda says 'The idea that this stigma doesn’t exist is actually really wrong because we don’t hear from those women'
Irish AIDS Day: '20% of new Irish HIV diagnoses are women'

Ahead of Irish AIDS Day today, Veda talked about breaking down the stigma around HIV. Picture: iStock

Some viewers of last night’s Six O’Clock Show were shocked to hear that over 20% of the HIV cases diagnosed in Ireland every year were among females.

The information was revealed during an interview with podcaster and drag performer Enda McGrattan, who is better known as Lady Veda, ahead of Irish AIDS Day today.

Veda has been a fierce advocate for breaking down the stigma around AIDS and HIV in Ireland, after revealing that she was HIV positive in 2019.

“What I think you’ll find surprising is that 20% of new diagnoses are women. It’s very much a problem,” Veda said on the show.

“We’ve had the highest rates of diagnoses in this country that we’ve ever had. The idea that this stigma doesn’t exist is actually really wrong because we don’t hear from those women.” 

The last available data report from HIV Ireland is from 2018, which shows that of the 523 diagnoses that year, 21% were among females and 79% were among those between the ages of 25 to 39. Heterosexual transmission accounted for 31% of diagnoses. 

Since the early 1980s, over 9,344 people have been diagnosed with HIV in Ireland, with an estimate that about 15% of people are unknowingly living with HIV and haven't yet been tested. Stigma could be a factor for people wishing to avoid testing.

A 2018 study around HIV and stigma in Ireland found that 88% of people thought that some members of the general public believe living with HIV is shameful. Around two-thirds of the study's survey respondents feared being rejected in a relationship because of being HIV positive and 61% of people living with HIV had not disclosed their status because they feared being treated differently. 

“I think coming out of Covid, now that we all understand viruses better, it’s really the perfect time to take a sledgehammer to that stigma and really try to encourage people, if they feel empowered enough, to share their status because it’s so good for your mental health. It really is," Veda said last night.

As well as today marking Irish AIDS Day, many are also acknowledging that 2021 marks 40 years since the discovery of HIV and AIDS.

HIV Ireland is currently hosting a panel discussion with experts to talk about how we can go about ending new diagnoses of HIV and AIDS by 2030, while Áras an Uachtaráin is sporting a red ribbon outside its doors for the day.

To find out more about testing and community support services visit www.hivireland.ie. You can also listen to Veda's HIV-focused Poz Vibe podcast on all major podcast providers now.

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