Whereas HIV infections in most of the European countries decrease, there was an increase in new diagnoses in Ireland from 2017 to 2018. Due to a report of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), there were 523 diagnoses in 2018, which is a rise of 7% compared to the previous year. That means that the rate is almost double the European average. Moreover, due to the report, this is a “relatively steady notification“ since 2015.
Most of the new diagnoses, namely 79% were in men. Furthermore, the report of the HPSC shows that 7% of infected people were between 15 to 24, 21% over 50 years old and the majority between the age of 25 and 39.
The group that is most affected by HIV infections are men who have sex with men, whilst heterosexual transmissions were the reasons for 31% of the new diagnoses. A third route of transmission of the disease is drug injection. However, this number is low with 3% of the diagnoses in 2018.
To reduce new HIV infections, the minister for health, Simon Harris, announced that the program for Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) will be fully rolled-out in 2020. PrEP is a medication that HIV-negative people can take to reduce the chance of getting infected through unprotected sex or sharing needles to use drugs.
However, there are also concerns about the lack of sex education in Ireland. “Due to the widespread religious patronage and involvement in the delivery of our state education system, the experience for many people of sex education in Ireland is one delivered with a Catholic ethos“, is what the independent senator Lynn Ruane said in an article for thejournal.ie.
A research from Core Research on behalf of Teva Pharmaceuticals Ireland from 2019 showed that one in five people in Ireland is unaware of any HIV prevention methods. Of those who did know something about it, only 2 percent mentioned PrEP. However, 36 percent of questioned people said they would take the pill.