GOSHH (Gender, Orientation, Sexual Health, HIV) unites once again this year with the rest of Europe from 22-29 November to take part in European Testing Week and focus on increased awareness and access to integrated testing and treatment for HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections.
GOSHH (18 Davis Street, Limerick) is uniting with organisations, institutions, key opinion leaders and government throughout Europe to participate in European Testing Week (ETW) from 22-29 November to create awareness and increase access to testing.
Testing is the gateway to treatment and care therefore increasing awareness, coverage and uptake of testing are key to address these infections. ETW creates a platform where messages about the importance of testing can be amplified and inform more people about testing throughout Europe. For the upcoming ETW, the theme encourages creating awareness about the importance of testing for more than one infection. With an integrated approach, the opportunities granted by ETW can reduce missed opportunities for testing and increase accessibility for people who do not normally access health services.
Limerick is one of four cities in Ireland – Dublin, Cork and Galway are the other three – now part of the HIV Fast Track Cities initiative. The HIV Fast Track Cities initiative is a global partnership between almost 300 cities in collaboration with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (IAPAC) and was launched in Paris in 2014.
HIV treatment is one tablet a day, and this treatment controls HIV so that it does not do any damage to the person living with the virus, and it cannot be transmitted sexually. This is the information behind the new campaign U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable). Last year there were 528 new notifications of HIV transmission in Ireland, which is more than one new transmission a day. Between January and November of 2019 there have been 454 new cases.
Ireland made a pledge to eliminate Hepatitis C by 2030 which should be possible now there is a cure. However, in an article for the medical independent in 2018, Dr Lambert noted “There are an estimated 30,000 people with hepatitis C in Ireland, mostly people who inject drugs, he noted. Approximately 2,000 have been treated under the HSE programme, while there are around 1,000 people on hospital registers who have not been treated. He said this left 27,000 people out in the community requiring treatment, and in the meantime, around 2,000 new infections were notified from 2014 to 2016”.
The new Hepatitis C treatment is tablets for either 8 or 12 weeks and there are little or no side effects. On average, in Ireland, around 600 people a year are newly diagnosed with Hepatitis C. These infections might not be new, as it is possible to live with Hep C for 30 years or more without obvious symptoms, but those 600 people did not know they were living with a potentially fatal infection until they were tested.
GOSHH have been providing rapid tests to people since 2012. The testing service has been steadily growing and is contributing to finding unknown cases of HIV and Hep C within the community as well as linking people in with medical care, so they can access the free treatments that are available to everyone who needs them.
Not only are GOSHH rapid tests very accurate, but the results are also available immediately. Of course, GOSHH also offer full support for people around their test results. Ann Mason, the manager at GOSHH stated “If someone is tested, and treated, Hep C can be cured, HIV can be effectively managed. I think it is important that everyone gets tested, and we are trying to make that as easy as possible for people. Ireland has one of the highest rates of new transmission for HIV in Europe. Our rate of HIV transmission is too high”.
Ann continued, “Fortunately, people who have been tested are now aware of their status and can receive the treatment they need to keep their HIV undetectable or be cured of Hepatitis C. It is to their benefit that they got tested because testing for HIV and Hepatitis C is the only way to detect these viruses”.
This year GOSHH will also be providing Syphilis tests as part of its rapid testing service. Syphilis in its early stage is easily cured with antibiotics. Full testing information is available through www.goshh.ie/test/ or by calling 061314354. If you wish to talk to someone about HIV, Hepatitis C or Syphilis testing, GOSHH is open from 9.30am – 5pm, Monday through to Friday.
Who needs to get tested?
Key populations for HIV testing
Key populations at higher risk in Europe vary from country to country, but in general they include:
- Men who have sex with men
- Injecting drug users (including steroids, heroin, crack, speed….even if you have only done it once)
- Sex workers (and anyone who has exchanged sex for goods, services, accommodation or money)
- Migrants (including persons originating from a high prevalence country) and mobile populations
- People who have been in prison
- Sexual partners of any of these people
Key populations for Hepatitis testing
The key populations at higher risk of Hepatitis are the same as those for HIV, above. In addition, those at increased risk of living with undiagnosed Hepatitis C include:
- People on long-term haemodialysis
- People who have received blood, blood products, or organs before screening for Hepatitis C was implemented, or where screening is not yet widespread
- Healthcare workers
- People who have had medical care abroad in at risk countries
- Other types of drug users including people who have snorted drugs
- People affected by homelessness
- Sexual partners of any of these people
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Annual Epidemiological Report, Hepatitis C in Ireland, 2017.
HIV in Ireland: 2018 provisional data including latest trends (slide sets)
HSE Urged to Step Up on Hep C