Sexual health strategy to be presented by end of year
A NATIONAL sexual health strategy is due to be submitted to Government before the end of this year, according to Minister of State for Health Róisín Shortall.
Speaking on Irish Aids Day at the launch of a campaign by Dublin Aids Alliance to encourage young people to carry condoms, Ms Shortall said: “The Department of Health have set up a steering group who are currently working on developing a national sexual health strategy to be presented to Government by the end of this year.
“I welcome the fact that this steering group is now in place and think that it is a good thing they are working to such a tight time scale.”
The Minister said she was concerned about figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre which showed there were 320 new HIV cases reported last year and more than 12,000 cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) notified in 2010.
This was a 10 per cent increase on 2009 figures.
“There is no reason for complacency in this area. This figure is far too high and is even likely to be significantly lower than the actual number of cases. This presents a big challenge to the Government and non governmental agencies,” Ms Shortall said.
“We have so much ground to make up for in all areas of activity – promotion, surveillance and treatment of STIs.
“The data we have at the moment is very underdeveloped and our services are underdeveloped also. But we will rise to this challenge and tackle the problem in a number of effective ways,” she added.
The Aids alliance’s campaign will run until the end of September. It seeks to promote condom use among 17-25 year olds through social media, and is supported by SpunOut.ie.
Susan Donlon, manager of prevention, education and training at the alliance, said it was vital they got the message of consistent condom use across in a way that engaged young people.
Some 70 per cent of sexually transmitted infections notified in 2010 were among those under 30 years old.
People can interact with the “Just Carry One” campaign via their Facebook page at facebook.com/justcarryoneor by using their Twitter hashtag: #justcarryone.
Anna Quigley, executive director of the Dublin Aids Alliance, said the number of new cases of HIV diagnosed in 2011 was down 3 per cent on the previous year.
“However, it remains the case that the rate of decrease in new cases has slowed significantly and an estimated 30 per cent of individuals infected with HIV are unaware of their infection,” she said.
LIVING WITH HIV: CASE STUDY
“BEING DIAGNOSED with HIV is life-altering. It will change the way you lead your existence.”
These are the words of Joe Lynch (47), who spoke yesterday on Irish Aids Day about the reality for HIV patients, despite advancements in treatment.
“People think that if they contract it nowadays all they have to do is pop a couple of pills and then they will be fine, but it is not like that at all.
“You have to be compliant with the drugs and stick to the regime,” adds Mr Lynch, who has been living with HIV for 13 years.
“Some people have days where they skip taking their medication, but these kinds of holidays can be very, very dangerous and can reduce the number of medications that will have an effect.”
While the fact that he has HIV may shock people, what shocks them even more is that he lives a completely normal life, he says.
“I go to work, go out to clubs and have pints and I pay my
taxes. People are sometimes surprised when I tell them I am HIV-positive but I think it’s important that they hear it from someone who is leading a normal life.”
He was diagnosed quickly after contracting the virus and was initially given just 12-18 months to live, but advancements in medication have given him a normal life expectancy.
“I have some side-effects with the new medication, such as nausea and poor appetite, but compared to the alternative it is easy to live with,” he said.
Since the 1980s, more than 6,000 people have been diagnosed with HIV in Ireland.