MEP for Ireland South, and former nurse and midwife, Phil Prendergast has called on people, young and old, to get tested for HIV, ahead of World Aids Day on 1 December 2013.
According to a 2013 report from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre on HIV rates in Ireland, there were 341 new diagnoses made in 2012 in individuals aged between 3 and 71. The median age for infection was 33.
Speaking on this issue, Ms Prendergast said “Last year we saw the first increase in four years in the number of people diagnosed with HIV, which is obviously something we should all be concerned about. We need to make sure that we remain vigilant, and the only way to do this is for everyone to get tested regularly.
“I am calling on people who are sexually active to use the occasion of World Aids Day on 1 December 2013 to book an appointment to get a free, confidential HIV test with their local STD clinic. It is a responsibility for all of us to be informed and to act responsibly.
“As a nurse who worked in hospitals in Ireland and London during the worst of the crisis in the 1980’s, the memories of those times, of the pain and hurt, particularly in the gay community, are all too vivid for me.
“The young and elderly represent a particular challenge, with the latter group representing 10% of new infections in Ireland in 2011. It is absolutely essential that we have strong information campaigns to increase awareness of the risks of HIV infection, and how to protect yourself from it.
“It is important that we use this information to help fight the stigma that still surrounds the disease which, when treated, is no longer the death sentence it used to be, but rather is a chronic, manageable disease. The most important thing to fight this epidemic is that people get tested and know their status.”