HIV Aids stigma persists, Alliance

Fri, Dec 7, 2012, 00:00

Despite progress in HIV Aids medical treatments there was still a huge stigma attached to the illness and late diagnosis was a serious problem, Dublin Aids Alliance said today marking 25 years since its foundation.

When set up in 1987, executive director Anna Quigley recalls that HIV Aids was a new illness, there was no treatment and “it was terrifying people because they could see in front of their eyes people getting sick, deteriorating and dying.”

Today the Alliance warned that HIV remained a significant challenge as the 2012 figures show an upward trend in the number of new cases.

Health Protection Surveillance Centre figures show 248 new infections up to the end of September and indicates that the final figure this year will likely be 3 per cent higher than last year. Ms Quigley described these figures as “unnecessary and unacceptable”.

Late diagnosis remained a “serious problem” and means people do not respond well to treatment, she said. While drug use was one of the big transmission routes years ago it was now sexual, she said.

She urged the Government to ensure the National Sexual Health Strategy being developed was “completed and adopted” by Government in mid-2013 and the necessary resources put in place so it can be implemented.

Asked about the strategy today, Minister of State for Primary Care Alex White said:  “we want to try and do that by early to mid 2013”.

The changes in the past quarter century were “enormous” she said describing the difficult situation for positive people in 1987.

“It was a very scary illness with no kind of hope for people…but the change is enormous as the medication developed. As soon as someone is diagnosed they get free treatment and if started early they can lead a relatively normal life. That’s a huge change”, she said.

Despite these improvements “there is still a huge stigma attached to the illness,” she said. In the past “people saw it as an illness that affected particular groups in society and it hasn’t been able to move on,” she said. It was one of the most difficult issues for people who still do not want to tell anyone when diagnosed.

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