The government has announced this week that an additional €450,000 will be allocated for HIV testing and outreach in cities around Ireland.
Speaking on Thursday, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that Ireland is signing up to the international HIV Fast-Track Cities initiative to help accelerate the response to Ireland’s HIV crisis.
The Fast-Track Cities initiative operates in over 300 cities around the world. In Ireland the scheme will be used to improve treatment and testing in Galway, Limerick, Cork, and Dublin.
With this new funding it’s hoped that Ireland will be able to hit a target of 3,250 rapid tests in 2019.
2018 was the worst year on record for new HIV cases in Ireland with an 528 people diagnosed with the virus last year.
Niall Mulligan, Executive Director with HIV Ireland welcomed the government’s commitment to the Fast-Track programme.
“It is now time for Ireland to join forces with cities and regions across the globe as part of the Fast-Track Cities Initiative, in order to play a proactive role in combating the continuing HIV crisis, not only in Ireland, but globally”.
This week Ireland has signed the Paris Declaration which pledges to reduce new HIV infections, end AIDS-related deaths, and eliminate barriers faced by people affected by, and living with, HIV, including stigma and discrimination.
Galway, Cork, Limerick, and Dublin has now committed to eliminating AIDS by 2030.
Minister for Health Simon Harris said the €450k funding was “specifically for developments such as community-based HIV testing and outreach services, as well as public campaigns on stigma reduction and promotion of the new PrEP programme later this year.”
Patrick Mallon, UCD Professor of Microbial Diseases and a Consultant at St. Vincent’s University Hospital said that the government needs to prioritise early access to PrEP and increase access to community based “education, testing and support services”.
“In doing so we can join our European neighbours who are finally seeing reductions in new diagnoses with introduction of these measures’.