Press Release

Minister for Health and Minister for Health Promotion mark World AIDS Day

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris and the Minister for Health Promotion, Catherine Byrne have said that increased education, awareness, prevention, testing and treatment are needed if we are to meet the challenges of HIV. The Ministers were speaking on World AIDS Day.

Minister Harris said “A lot of good work has been done implementing the National Sexual Health Strategy and we are increasing access to HIV testing, condoms, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), sexual health services, antiretroviral therapy for people living with HIV and harm reduction interventions for people who use drugs. While the figures for those being diagnosed with HIV are too high, it is encouraging that in 2016 there was a 6% decline in HIV infections, where there was no history of previous HIV diagnosis abroad. We must and will do more in this area so that we can reduce the number of new infections and ensure the health and wellbeing of those living with HIV.”

On the issue of PrEP, Minister Harris said “I’m very keen to see increased access to PrEP in Ireland and I welcome the news that from next week a generic form of the drug will be available, meaning more people are going to have access to it. A lot of work is being done in this area. A working group has been set up to make recommendations in relation to (HIV) PrEP in Ireland and develop the necessary guidance, including developing standards for delivery of PrEP care, drafting a clinical management protocol for PrEP and a monitoring and evaluation framework. Work is planned in the near future to assess the feasibility of implementing the PrEP standards within public STI clinics.

“In the interim, practical guidance has been developed for health care providers and a patient information leaflet, to support people who are accessing PrEP themselves. A PrEP monitoring clinic is being piloted in the Gay Men’s Health Service (GMHS). People who are accessing PrEP themselves are strongly encouraged to attend for monitoring, either to their GP, their local sexual health service, or to the monitoring clinic in the GMHS.”

Minister Byrne said ‘On World AIDS Day, we think of everyone who has been impacted in some way by HIV AIDS. The reality is that a diagnosis of HIV for a person has a long-term impact on their lives. Yesterday I spoke at a debate in the Seanad to mark World AIDS Day and I stressed to the House, as I have done in the past, that HIV is one of the most stigmatised conditions in our time. I recognise that people living with HIV may face judgment, rejection, hurt and desperation. Stigma can be a barrier to talking about HIV. The opportunity to raise awareness of AIDS helps us to confront the challenges of this disease.”

“I want to acknowledge the close working relationship and engagement of voluntary and community groups with the HSE Sexual Health Crisis Pregnancy Programme and its Clinical Lead. This relationship has been central to the progress we are making in addressing the HIV challenge under the auspices of the Sexual Health Strategy”