MEP urges young and old to have a HIV test

December 1 was World Aids Day, and to mark the occasion MEP for Ireland South, Phil Prendergast urged young and old, to get tested for HIV if you are sexually active.

December 1 was World Aids Day, and to mark the occasion MEP for Ireland South, Phil Prendergast urged young and old, to get tested for HIV if you are sexually active.

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.

“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,” said the former nurse and midwife.

She said that is a responsibility for all of us to be informed and to act responsibly regarding our sexual health.

“As a nurse who worked in hospitals in Ireland and London during the worst of the crisis in the 1980s, 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.”