The ban on the sale of condoms and criminalisation of same-sex relationships “paralysed” a meaningful response from the State at the height of the Aids epidemic, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.
Mr Varadkar was speaking at the unveiling of a new monument in Dublin’s Phoenix Park to all those affected by HIV and Aids.
He said the disease was “poorly understood and greatly feared” and that misinformation had created false narratives, including that the disease was limited to certain communities, including gay men and intravenous drug users.
“The criminalisation of same-sex relationships and a ban on the sale of condoms paralysed any meaningful response from the State,” he said, adding that community groups, activists and healthcare workers stepped in to provide vital information and care for people infected with the virus.
“The history of how we treated people with HIV and Aids was a nightmare that we’re only really beginning to recover from now.”
Mr Varadkar was joined by Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman, and campaigner and activist Rory O’Neill, who spoke of his experiences since he was diagnosed with HIV in 1996.
The Embraced Loop monument, which is located in the People’s Park within the Phoenix Park, is designed to bring to mind the red ribbon symbol, a universal symbol worn to raise awareness and support for people living with HIV.
The monument is designed to express solidarity with those who have been affected by HIV and Aids and to remember people who have died while celebrating their lives and all who supported them, the Government said in a statement.
It was designed by artists Anaisa Franco and Michael R DiCarlo. Mr Varadkar said that to mark the occasion, Ireland is contributing €750,000 to the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
- Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date