Press Release

Report on Antenatal HIV Screening in Ireland published

Dr Tom Moffatt, T.D., Minister of State and chairman of the National AIDS Strategy Committee, today (30 November 2001) announced the findings of the report of the Surveillance Sub Committee of the National AIDS Strategy Committee on the Results of Unlinked Antenatal HIV Screening in Ireland. This programme has been underway since 1992 and this report shows trends in HIV infection in antenatal women up to the end of 2000.

“Even though the rate of HIV in Ireland is still low by international standards, this upward trend is a matter of concern. I would like to take the opportunity of World AIDS Day to encourage people to heed awareness messages about how HIV can be transmitted and not to engage in activities which may put them at risk of becoming infected with HIV,” said Minister Moffatt.

Since the programme commenced in the last quarter of 1992 a total of 464,780 tests were carried out on residue blood specimens from a routine blood test on antenatal women to the end of December 2000. 184 of these samples were confirmed HIV positive, giving a rate of 39.6 per 100,000 tests.

1999 2000
Total number of tests: 54,089 64,412
No. of HIV positive samples: 24 70
Rate per 100,000: 44 124

Around three quarters of the positive tests (52) in 2000 were in the Eastern Region, giving a regional rate of 197 per 100,000 tests. The rate had also risen significantly in the rest of the country, but only to 59.9 per 100,000 tests.

The HIV figures just released by the National Disease Surveillance Centreshow that the percentage of cases in the heterosexual/risk unspecified category has risen from 43.9% in 2000 to 56.5% in the first two quarters of 2001. The data do not show whether HIV was contracted in Ireland. Next year we will have information which will tell us whether or not heterosexual transmission of HIV within Ireland has increased.

During 1999 a system of routine linked antenatal HIV testing was introduced in antenatal clinics nationwide. “This is an ethically important step since it has been clearly shown that the perinatal transmission of the virus can be dramatically reduced or prevented by antenatal treatment of HIV positive women with anti-retroviral drugs and by careful management of the delivery,” said the Minister.

In Ireland, where the HIV status of the mother is known antenatally, and treatment has been provided, the perinatal transmission rate has so far been reduced to less than 1%. Anonymous unlinked testing will continue until linked testing reaches a compliance rate of greater than 90%, so that the HIV infection rate in this population can continue to be monitored effectively in the interim.

UN reports show that by the end of the year 2000, 36.1 million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS. The cumulative total number of reported HIV cases in Ireland to the end of June 2001 was 2,347. The total number of new reported cases of HIV in the first six months of this year was 160.

The Health Promotion Unit and Health Boards continue to run awareness initiatives highlighting the risk of HIV and AIDS.

“For World AIDS Day a message giving advice on how to reduce the risk of sexual transmission of the virus will be shown in cinemas throughout the country. In addition, messages targeting specific groups continue to be placed in toilet and washroom areas and in magazines aimed at these groups. We cannot become complacent about HIV,” concluded the Minister.

Report on Antenatal HIV Screening in Ireland in PDF format