Worrying new figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre have revealed rising rates of young people being diagnosed as HIV positive in Ireland.
An expert described how sixteen people were diagnosed last week with the illness, and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases is at an "alarming" rate.
The age group of 20-year-olds until the age of 29 are the age group at high risk of getting an infection.
#HIV & #STI weekly report for Ireland:
146 cases of chlamydia
54 cases of gonorrhoea
19 cases of syphilis
16 cases of HIV
https://t.co/o4lCmw0qXx #syphilis #chlamydia #gonorrhoea #herpes pic.twitter.com/alwWDn9NGO
— HPSC (@hpscireland) June 26, 2019
Concern’s team leader for health and HIV Breda Gahan said:
“I’m thinking of those 16 people who got that big blow of news last week and how it will affect them in terms of travelling, future job prospects, stigma and treatment.
“I would say unfortunately the stigma has increased both in Ireland and globally. On top of that, who are you going to tell? Are you going to tell your partner or your ex partners or family? No one wants to carry the burden alone," Breda continued.
Since 2011, there has been a 35% increase in new #HIV diagnoses in #Ireland. We need to prioritise and accelerate the response to this growing HIV crisis and we are calling for political support and commitments to drive the response nationally. #5Asks https://t.co/TxZRgFZnoj pic.twitter.com/iujh5vp0Hk
— HIV Ireland (@HIVIreland) February 18, 2019
“I don’t want to frighten people or say if you have sex you’re going to get HIV that’s not the case. But people don’t realise a lot of the cases of HIV are home grown.”
Even though there is access to free treatment for AIDS in Ireland, Gahan feels that the Government need to do more to raise awareness about the disease.
“HIV prevention is failing, it just hasn’t been invested in despite the increasing number of infections. The Government should get those who have the skills to travel to primary schools to work with those who are age appropriate."
“Education is the social vaccine. Girls and boys need to understand how to protect themselves from life-threatening infections. There is a serious lack of accurate information, there’s a lot of myths and misconceptions.
“We also need to make services more adolescent and user friendly. No one wants to go to an STI clinic.”
Recent figures from the HPSC report show that 239 cases of HIV have been reported so far this year. 4,193 people have contracted chlamydia, 1,341 have gonorrhoea, and 793 have herpes.
In comparison to last year, Ireland has seen an increase of almost 1,200 infections.
Breda Gahan explained the reason for the apparent lack of concern among youth:
“There’s an increase in STIs among young people because of complacency and people aren’t dying so there’s less fear. Young people don’t really care if they get an STI because it’s treatable.”
The expert says that we need to start educating children in primary school aged 10 to 12;
“As a nurse, I would go as far to say that it’s too late to educate kids at secondary school level. Hormones are hopping at that age.
“It’s alarming and concerning to see the increase of numbers. No sex can be totally safe – there’s always some risk, for example a condom breaking. But there needs to be education about safer sex.”