GOSHH recognises Irish AIDS Day 2020 with the message that HIV does not discriminate. From the 1980s, when HIV was recognised as a global pandemic, until now HIV can affect everyone. Whilst there has been a significant and welcome improvement in treatment for HIV, concern remains regarding the rising numbers of newly diagnosed cases in Ireland. In spite of the lockdown and reduced services in Ireland, we have 226 confirmed new cases of HIV so far this year.
GOSHH (Gender Orientation Sexual Health HIV), based in Davis Street in Limerick City, formally known as Red Ribbon Project, has been involved in HIV activism since it was first set up in 1989 by a group of gay men in Limerick and is currently promoting community based rapid testing as part of the Know Now campaign. Monday 15 June is Irish AIDS Day. GOSHH will mark the day by providing information on HIV services that are running during this time of COVID-19.
Most HIV is transmitted by people who are unaware that they have HIV. Early diagnosis can help increase the life expectancy and reduce transmission. There were 537 new HIV diagnoses in Ireland in 2019. A total of 523 people were diagnosed with HIV in 2018, compared with 492 in 2017. So far 9,344 people have been diagnosed with HIV in Ireland since the early 80s.
GOSHH has a peer support group for people living with HIV in the Mid-West Region. The group provides a time where members can gather to share experiences, difficulties, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and positive aspects of the process they are going through in a confidential setting.
Ann Mason, GOSHH Manager, stated how important it is for people to know their HIV status: ‘These days HIV is a treatable infection and the sooner someone living with HIV accesses treatment, the sooner the medication will reduce their viral load to undetectable. One of the goals of our testing service will be that everybody living in the Mid-West will get to know their HIV status and be aware of Sexual Health Services within their locality. It is also important to encourage people to openly discuss their HIV status with their sexual partner(s).”
HIV doesn’t discriminate, so neither should we, and this initiative will address a global issue at a local level where testing and treatment will be standardised and accessible throughout all partner cities. Given the continued increase in HIV figures in Ireland, and the recent research reports about U=U, this is the right time for this initiative.
With the changes to testing and and medical systems that have happened in Ireland to accomodate and deal with COVID-19, we can see that there are ways to improve the future of testing and diagnosis for HIV in the Limerick, Clare and Tipperary. The free STI clinic in University Hospital Limerick is still operating for emergencies. You can contact them by emailing email@example.com. If you are concerned about HIV and would like to talk to someone, we have a HIV support worker who would be happy to take your call.
If as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, you have found yourself stuck here in Ireland without access to your normal HIV medication, you can contact us to find out how to register for free treatment here in Ireland. There is no need to be without medication. Medication here is free to everyone.
Due to COVID-19, GOSHH is not providing free rapid HIV Tests on Monday 15 June; instead we are encouraging people to update their knowledge by either calling or writing to us about any queries they might have regarding the services that GOSHH provides at its centre on 18 Davis Street, Limerick.
For more details on Rapid Testing and the Peer Support Group please contact GOSHH on 061 314354 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors:
In 2018, 523 new HIV diagnoses were notified in Ireland. For further information visit http://www.hpsc.ie/A-Z/HIVSTIs/
GOSHH provides rapid HIV, Syphilis and Hepatitis C testing. The test uses a pin prick on the finger, a drop of blood and the test results are available within 60 seconds. https://goshh.ie/rapidtesting/