The Union of Students in Ireland are teaming up with Operation Zero tomorrow, the 15th June at 9am on Irish AIDS Days at HIV Ireland, 70 Eccles Street with the message ‘no shame, no judgment, just support!’ to encourage students to get tested, as new figures from Health Protection Surveillance Centre show a 30% increase in HIV in Ireland.
There were 491 new HIV diagnosis notified during 2015 – an increase of 30% compared to 2014. Among those 491, 49.7% were men who have had sex with men, 23.8% were heterosexual, 9.2% were people who inject drugs, and 0.8% were mother-to-child transmissions.
“USI is encouraging students across Ireland to regularly get tested.” Kevin Donoghue, USI President said. “STI screenings are available in health clinics across campuses and from local GPs. There are also free rapid HIV testing in locations such as Panti Bar in Dublin; GOSHH in Limerick, Chambers nightclub in Cork and a walk-in clinic in UCH Galway. STI screenings only take five minutes and are essential for a healthy sex life.”
Robbie Lawlor is a student from DCU living with HIV, leading the Operation Zero campaign emphasising the importance of de-stigmatising HIV –
“As someone living with HIV in Ireland it’s very easy to live in deafening silence.” Robbie Lawlor said. “HIV is something that nobody should be ashamed of and I am very excited to partner with USI on this campaign and to break down the stigma and encourage students to get tested.”
The official hashtag for the day will be #IAD16. USI and Operation Zero are engaging those in power to ensure that governments, global institutions and corporations are committed to ending AIDS by 2030.
Many of those diagnosed with HIV are at the later stage of the infection and USI is emphasising that the sooner the diagnosis has been confirmed, the sooner a medical plan can be established. 77 people (22.3% of those diagnosed) presented with a low CD4 count of less than 200 cells – the lower the CD4 cell count, the greater the damage to the immune system and the greater the risk of illness. These figures show the importance of getting checked for HIV regularly.