Aids campaign for TV as cases near one a day

A HIGH-PROFILE television campaign warning about the rise of the Aids pandemic in Ireland will hit Irish screens within months.

Two decades after a hard-hitting advertisement unnerved British viewers with its memorable slogan etched on a tombstone — Don’t Die of Ignorance — health chiefs are hoping to make a similar impact here.

But a new alliance of Aids charities which have come together to spearhead the Stamp Out Stigma initiative want to take a softer approach than the chilling1980s campaign.

Breda Gahan, global HIV and Aids advisor for humanitarian organisation Concern, said there was increasing evidence that very negative messages do notwork.

“We need a softer approach — one that says there is hope and services which are free here in Ireland so people can be tested,” she said.

The new drive follows the latest figures on transmission of the infection showing 169 new cases — almost one a day — were diagnosed in the Republic inthe first six months of this year.

The number was up slightly on the same period in 2005, with almost half of the new cases acquired through heterosexual sex.

Intercourse between men accounted for 40 of the new infections, 28 were drug users sharing dirty needles, two were passed down from mother to child and 18 cases were undetermined.

“This is only those who have come forward for tests. We don’t know how many cases are as yet undiagnosed,” said Ms Gahan.

“Unfortunately it is only the people who are encouraged or stigmatised who are most likely to be tested.

“People can go for seven to 10 years in this country, where we have good nutrition and don’t have some of the infections experienced in poorer countries, without showing any symptoms.”

Ms Gahan stressed there is still ignorance in Ireland over how Aids and HIV can be contracted and treated, adding that a multi -pronged approach was necessary to combat the rise in infection.

“Often the biggest barrier to stopping the spread of the infection is fear of the stigma and discrimination. The only way we are going to interrupt the transmission of this devastating pandemic is to support people getting tested,” she said.

Concern is one of a number of charities working with the Department of Health and Children on the €300,000 advertising campaign on television, radio, cinema and websites which starts early in the new year.

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