HIV diagnosis still carries stigma, says Aids alliance

Sat, Dec 8, 2012, 00:00

Despite a “transformation”of HIV Aids treatments in the past 25 years there was still a major stigma attached to it and late diagnosis was a serious problem, Dublin Aids Alliance said yesterday, marking its foundation.

Executive director Anna Quigley painted a grim picture of the landscape when the alliance was formed in 1987, five years after the first two cases of Aids were diagnosed in Ireland.

There was no treatment and “it was terrifying people because they could see in front of their eyes people getting sick, deteriorating and dying”, she said yesterday.

However, medical developments since then have been “enormous”.

“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.”

Heroin problem

Due to a serious heroin problem in Dublin’s inner city there were a lot of young people becoming ill 25 years ago, she said. “It was a very scary illness and there was no kind of hope,” she said.

By 1992, almost 60 per cent of HIV-positive tests were drug-related, a figure that has fallen to some 6 per cent. Today the main transmission route is sexual.

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. “There is still a huge stigma attached to the illness.”

Late diagnosis remained a “serious problem” and means people do not respond well to treatment, she said.

This year’s new-case figures show an upward trend and yesterday the alliance warned HIV remained a significant challenge as figures showed 248 new infections up until the end of September.