There have been 427 new cases of HIV infections reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC), the body responsible for tracking infections in Ireland, between January 1st and November 21st of this year. This is already higher the total number of infections reported in 2014 when 377 new diagnosis were made.
It is important to be aware of this figures as we mark the World AIDS Day for the 28th time since its inception in 1988. This day is there to raise awareness of AIDS throughout the world and us to mourn those who have died of the disease.
Today AIDS is a long-term condition and is no longer the death sentence it once was, but it still leads to a huge change in a persons life. That is why it is important to know your HIV Status and to take precautions so you are not exposed to the virus.
The number of infections in 2014 was also an increase of 11% from 2013. This can be accounted for by an increasing number of HIV notifications among men who have sex with men (MSM) and people who inject drugs (PWID).
According to HPSC’s report ‘HIV in Irealnd – 2014 Report’
the highest number of new diagnoses was among MSM (183; 49%); and this is the highest number ever reported in MSM in Ireland. In the 10 years since 2005, the number of new diagnoses among MSM has increased threefold (from 60 to 183) and the median age at diagnosis has dropped from 37 to 31 years
This are frightening numbers. Why are these numbers increasing? While great work is being done by many statutory and voluntary organisations across the country, more needs to be done to combat this rise.
While MSM account for just under half the infections, heterosexual contact is the second most common route for transmission according to the HSPC
Heterosexual contact was the second most commonly reported mode of transmission in 2014, (125; 33%). Since 2010, the number of diagnoses among heterosexuals has remained stable, ranging from 125 to 133 diagnoses per year. The majority of heterosexuals (62%) diagnosed in 2014 were born in countries with generalised HIV epidemics
The Report highlights that People who inject drugs are another increasing group,
There were 27 (7%) new diagnoses among PWID in 2014, the highest number reported in this risk group since 2009. Of the new diagnoses, 85% were Irish-born, 89% were resident in Dublin and 89% were co-infected with hepatitis C. Forty one percent of PWID newly diagnosed in 2014 were recently infected, with documented previous negative HIV tests in either 2013 or 2014; also the proportion diagnosed late in 2014 (44%) was lower than in previous years (53% in 2013 and 56% in 2012). This increase in recently acquired infections since June 2014 among PWID is currently under investigation by the Director of Public Health in Dublin and a detailed review of the mode of transmission for cases diagnosed since 2014 is also being carried out. Ascertainment of injecting drug use as a mode of transmission may be improving and could account for some of the increase, but the data points to transmission of HIV in this population and is of concern.
This shows the importance of schemes like the Pharmacy Needle Exchange Scheme to lessen the chances of transmission.
Here in Cork, Konrad Im, the newly crowned Mr Gay Ireland, has been raising money for various charities, including HIVAIDS charities, and working with Sexual Health Centre, he says
I think it’s important to raise awareness and funds for HIV/AIDs to help prevent the spread of the condition. Working with the Sexual Health Centre Cork has been a great learning experience. I have noticed a lot of people are scared to get tested. So we need to talk about it and normalize it so more people will be comfortable getting tested. Its important to know your status, and be safe.
Cork City Hall was also lit up Red at the weekend to mark World AIDS Day.
Across the World people will be taking the opportunity to lobby Governments to ensure that the targets set as part of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals are met which include an aim to end the AIDS Epidemic by 2030.
This is an issue that spans from Local to international and one in which we all have a role to play. From educating ourselves to help prevent transmission, to taking action to stop the spread of stigma against those with HIV. We can all help and take a stand.
I’ll be wearing my Red Ribbon today. I hope you will too.
The Sexual Health Centre is offering Free One Minute Rapid HIV Tests between November 23rd – December 4th
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for an appointment or ring them on 0214276676