Free HIV testing must be considered to ensure early detection
More needs to be done to address growing numbers of HIV diagnoses in Ireland, says Brian Hayes MEP
HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and viral hepatitis cases are on the rise in the European Union and Ireland needs to get to grips with it, along with other Member States, said Brian Hayes MEP.
“Tuberculosis (TB), which is the biggest killer of people living with HIV, has become a serious cross-border threat as population mobility is increasing. In Ireland last year, 512 people were diagnosed with HIV – a number which has been creeping up since 2011 and particularly in the past two years. Of the numbers diagnosed, 77% were males, while 23% were female. What is interesting though is that over half of the people diagnosed where born outside of Ireland, and are now living here.
“The good news is that people who have been diagnosed with HIV and are receiving treatment now have a near normal life expectancy. However there are fears that a growing ambivalence about the disease is putting increasing numbers at risk. Getting the text is crucial and while some clinics do offer free tests, one can expect to pay between €75 and €120 for a HIV test.
“As HIV remains the communicable disease bearing the greater social stigma, and with greater numbers of EU and International citizens coming to Ireland, we need to consider making HIV tests free of charge to speed up diagnosis. According to the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC), one out of seven people living with HIV are not aware they are HIV positive.”
“The European Commission is currently considering the need for a harmonised infection surveillance programme to immediately detect outbreaks of these contagious diseases, assess trends in prevalence, provide disease burden estimates and effectively track in real time how diagnosis, treatment and care are managed. The estimated average time between HIV infection and diagnosis is four years. This needs to be drastically reduced and free testing, along with a public health campaign may be the way to tackle this.”