The latest research from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) shows that the number of individuals diagnosed with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) rose by 8% in 2018 in Ireland with 531 diagnoses, up from 492 the previous year.
The research on the diagnosis of HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) indicate that the number of people in Ireland diagnosed with HIV is rising continuously in recent years, regardless of an overall decline in rates of new cases across the European Union.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has found that EU and European Economic Area has seen a 20% drop in new diagnoses rate among men who have sex with men since 2015.
But in November, the Centre warned that transmission of HIV remained a “major public health concern.”
It is affecting more than 2.3 million people across the World Health Organisation’s “European Region”. This region stretches across Europe into Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.
In Ireland, the number of new HIV cases slightly decreased in 2017, falling from 508 HIV infections in 2016 to 492.
In 2017, three-quarters of HIV diagnoses were men. And more than half of diagnosis were those men who have sex with men.
Also, more than a third of individuals diagnosed with the infection in 2017 were heterosexual. Hence, 63% of people diagnosed were born abroad and more than a quarter born in Ireland.
The latest statistics from the HPSC reveals that the rate of chlamydia in Ireland also increased in 2018, rising 7 percent from 7,405 cases in 2017 to 7,942 cases last year. Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Mainly, it is caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. It is very common and can infect both men and women.
The occurrence rate of genital herpes remained similar to last year, with 1,594 diagnoses in 2017. But the incidence of gonorrhea also rose by 7% in 2018. The occurrence of syphilis rose by more than 25 percent, from 411 diagnosed cases in 2017 to 516 cases last year.
Is Rise in HIV rates acceptable?
All these diseases are sexually transmitted caused by a virus. After the initial infection, the virus lies inactive in the body. And it can reactivate several times a year.
Andrew Leavitt is a member of the HIV activist organization ACT UP. He described that the rise in HIV diagnoses is “unacceptable”. According to him, it was a “predictable result” of the Government’s delay in providing State funding for the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) HIV prevention drug.
This drug can stop HIV from taking grip and spreading throughout your body. It is very effective for preventing HIV infection if used as recommended. But this drug is much less operative when not taken regularly.
This drug is already available for purchase in Ireland but is under consideration for State funding. The once-daily prescription of this drug has been proven to reduce the risk of HIV infection by up to 90%.
It caused significant reductions in HIV diagnosis.
These statistics highlight the requirement for the HSE to act quickly for easy access to PrEP everywhere in the country.
The researchers called for HIV testing to be greatly expanded. Free testing should be available through GPs and free HIV self-testing kits should be provided. Nationwide awareness campaigns can also help people to help combat this disease.
Does PrEP Have Any Side Effects?
- PrEP can cause minor side effects in some people. Like, it can cause nausea, fatigue, vomiting, and dizziness, but these generally disappear over time.
- In rare cases, this drug can also affect the normal functioning of kidneys.
- If you are taking PrEP and experience any adverse effects which are severe or don’t go away, tell your healthcare professional.