A new mobile HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) screening service for Dublin and Leinster will begin operating in the new year.
The service was launched in Dublin on Thursday by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
Bernard Condon, the chairman of HIV Ireland, said the new mobile clinic will help Ireland achieve a goal of ending new HIV transmissions in major urban areas by the end of the decade.
The service, which will be advertised through community organisations and over social media, is to operate at various locations in Dublin and surrounding counties.
The van will be staffed by a full-time project coordinator, and part-time outreach workers will work directly with communities to provide testing and information on HIV and STIs.
Peer volunteers will be trained as community testers, enhancing engagement with target communities.
Medical support and oversight will be provided by healthcare professionals and hospital/clinic-based services, including the Mater hospital STI Clinic, to where individuals identified through the screening service as being in need of further treatment and support will be referred for care.
The project is a joint initiative between HIV Ireland and Aids Care Education and Training (ACET).
Much of the funding for the service came from biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences.
Dr Julian Cole, country medical director at Gilead Sciences UK and Ireland, said: “We hope this project establishes best practice in engaging underserved communities and makes a meaningful contribution to Ireland’s goal of ending HIV transmissions by 2030.”
ACET chief executive Richard Carson said: “The van has been designed to facilitate friendly, efficient testing options, free at the point of use to multiple communities.”
He added: “Having the van pull up at a local community centre to offer out-of-hours, accessible and culturally appropriate screening services, provided in a friendly non-judgmental way, can only improve rates of testing for HIV and STIs among communities which continue to face a range of systemic and structural barriers in accessing health services.”
Additional funding for the project was secured from pharma company GSK-ViiV and from Certified Proud, the network of companies supporting LGBTI+ equality.