Aids Day a 'reminder on safe sex'
World Aids Day, which will be marked this Saturday, should act as a reminder to people of all ages of the importance of practising safe sex, a member of Fine Gael’s recently formed LGBT group said.
Councillor Pa O’Driscoll said the fact that 320 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in Ireland last year was “proof that education and information campaigns are needed so that people, especially the young, are encouraged to look after their sexual health”.
Some 235 men and 85 women were newly diagnosed with HIV last year, giving a male to female ratio of 2.8 to one, he said.
“Even more worrying, however, is the fact that the highest proportion of new diagnoses (42.5 per cent) were among men who have sex with men (MSM).
“It is thought, in some circles, that the reason for this is that young men do not see HIV and Aids as the death sentence it once was due to advances in anti-retro viral drugs.”
Mr O’Driscoll said there was “no room for complacency” where HIV and Aids were concerned.
“It is up to each and every one of us to ensure that we take responsibility for our own sexual health and that precautions are taken if people are engaging in casual sex.”
He added that sexually active young people should also be encouraged to get tested regularly, not only for HIV but for all sexually transmitted infections.
“Simply ignoring issues in the hope that they will go away is just not good enough. As a nation we need develop a maturity to sex and ensure that we talk to our younger people so that they are equipped with the information to protect themselves.”
The theme ‘Getting to Zero’ has been selected by the World Aids Campaign to marke this year’s event on December 1st.
The organisation said the new theme, which will be used until 2015, echoed the UNAIDS vision of achieving zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero Aids-related deaths.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre, which records infection rates, noted "positive news" in the latest World AIDS Day Report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAIDS).
It shows a 50 per cent reduction in the rate of new HIV infections has been achieved in 25 low- and middle-income countries between 2001 and 2011.
In some of the highest prevalence countries in the world, rates of new HIV infections have been cut dramatically since 2001; by 73 per cent in Malawi, 71 per cent in Botswana, 68 per cent in Namibia and 58 per cent in Zambia, the HPSC said.
"However, the total number of new HIV infections remains high at 2.5 million in 2011 and the report shows that HIV continues to have a disproportionate impact on sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM) and people who inject drugs."
An estimated 34 million people globally were living with HIV last year. About 1.7 million people died from Aids-related diseases.