Wednesday June 15 is Irish AIDS Day and Gender Orientation Sexual Health HIV (GOSHH), based on Davis Street in Limerick City, will mark the day by providing free Rapid HIV Tests.
GOSHH, formally known as Red Ribbon Project, has been involved in HIV activism since it was first set up in 1989 by a group of gay men in Limerick and is currently promoting community based rapid testing as part of the Know Now campaign. GOSHH have been providing Rapid HIV tests for the last four years and are part of the first scheme to take a national approach to Rapid HIV testing. By making the test free of charge it removes the barrier of cost which was sometimes a factor in people not testing for HIV.
KnowNow, is an exciting and innovative new approach to enabling more people to know their HIV status. If people have HIV then the earlier they become aware of their status the better it will be for their long term health outcomes. In addition, most HIV is transmitted by people who are unaware that they have HIV, so early diagnosis can further reduce onward transmission rates. The test uses a pin prick of blood from your finger and the results are available within 60 seconds.
Ann Mason, GOSHH Manager stated how important it is for people to know their HIV status: ‘These days HIV is a treatable infection and the sooner someone living with HIV accesses treatment, the sooner the medication will reduce their viral load to undetectable. One of the goals of our testing service will be that everybody living in the Mid-West will get to know their HIV Status and be aware of Sexual Health Services within their locality. It is also important to encourage people to openly discuss their HIV Status with their sexual partner.”
While there has been a significant and welcome improvement in treatment for HIV, concern remains regarding the rising numbers of newly diagnosed cases in Ireland. New HIV diagnoses nationally have increased by 35% since 2011. A total of 498 people were diagnosed with HIV in 2015, compared with 372 in 2014. To date in 2016, there has been a 42% increase in the number of people being diagnosed with HIV – with 214 new diagnoses, compared to 151 in the same period last year. This increase now translates to an average of 10 people per week being diagnosed with HIV.
The latest HIV diagnosis figures also show that HIV remains an issue of critical concern for gay and bisexual men. The figures for 2015 show that gay and bisexual men are the group most likely to acquire HIV in Ireland. There remains a clear need for gay and bisexual men to know their HIV status.
To coincide with Irish AIDS Day, GOSHH will also launch a peer support group for people living with HIV in the Mid-West Region. The group provides a time where members can gather to share experiences, difficulties, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and positive aspects of the process they are going through in a confidential setting.
GOSHH will be providing free rapid HIV Tests on Wednesday June 15th at its centre on 18 Davis Street, Limerick. No appointment is necessary and results are available in 60 seconds.
For more details on Rapid Testing and the Peer Support Group please contact GOSHH on 061 314354 or email firstname.lastname@example.org