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Minister for Health Simon Harris is aiming to remove VAT from condoms and menstrual cups, and we want to squeeze him with hugs for life.

Harris called for a review of Ireland's tax approach on menstrual products and the barrier contraceptive ahead of last year's Budget, but no changes were carried out.

His position appears to be the same this year, and he'll be asking for VAT on these goods to be scrapped in October's Budget.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The reduced rate of VAT of 13.5 percent applies to condoms at the moment, but the minister hopes to remove it entirely according to The Journal.

The Irish Pharmacy Union has also called for condoms to be VAT-free, with a pack of 12 condoms currently pricing at between €13 and €20.

Contraceptive gels for use with the barrier method also have a 13.5 percent rate applied. The oral contraceptive pill, the implant and injection currently have 0% VAT.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Harris wrote to Finance Minister Paschal Donohue about the work to reduce crisis pregnancies, saying that the VAT rates;

“Runs contrary to our work for people to practice safer sex and avoid crisis pregnancies and STIs”.

The letter  was released under the Freedom of Information Act, and states that the aim of the Sexual Health Strategy is to “improve sexual health and well being and to reduce negative sexual health outcomes”.

Harris writes in the letter that the cost of condoms could stop people buying them. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The importance of using condoms is also to protect against STIs, including HIV, as well as contraception.

While he pointed out that consumer expenditure is widely subject to VAT, Harris claimed that “there is a strong case for excluding non-oral contraception from this tax”.

"Such a tax may inevitably discourage people from purchasing non-oral contraception due to cost concerns. This runs contrary to our work for people to practise safer sex and avoid crisis pregnancies and STIs. Both of these outcomes have a negative impact on the people concerned and their immediate family."

The health service loses out in the long run if STI rates are high, due to the cost "involved in treating people who contract HIV".

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Harris has also called for the VAT rate on sanitary products to be reduced to 0% also, such as the VAT rate of 23 percent on menstrual cups.

“The issue that now needs attention is the position with newer products. Newer products (e.g. menstrual cups) that were not available at the time of these agreements are subject to the standard rate of VAT 23 percent.

“There is a cogent argument for removing VAT on these and any newer sanitary products and aligning them with the zero-percent VAT rate applicable to tampons and sanitary towels,” he said.

The minister currently is attempting to overhaul the cost and availability of contraception in Ireland.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The government announced that it hopes to increase free contraception nationwide, and Harris plans to reduce the cost of the morning after pill.

Last Monday, Harris announced that condoms would be distributed across third level colleges this year.

A public consultation is currently underway on how to increase access to contraception in the hopes to reduce abortion rates, STIs spreading and crisis pregnancies.

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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.

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.

“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."

Gahan added;

“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.”

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New research has shaken us to our very sexual core…almost HALF of Irish people have never been tested for a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Shame on you, lads.

A disturbing 47 percent of Irish people have never gone for a sexual health check-up, according to data gathered by Censuswide.

Medicine Direct commissioned the study as part of their 'Fruit of your Loins' campaign, which emphasises the symptoms of STIs and aims to reduce stigma and raise awareness.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Only 39 percent of the survey's respondents claimed to practice safe sex, while just over half of those quizzed said they would be confident about recognising the symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection. Jaysis.

One-in-five (22 percent) of those asked said they wouldn't be confident in recognising symptoms, and one-in-eight (12 percent) said they were "not at all confident" in spotting signs of an infection

Almost one-in-six (16 percent) of Irish people admitted that they would never divulge details about their sexual past to their partner. 44 percent said they would discuss their sexual history once in a serious relationship.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Worryingly, two out of three people (66 percent) said they wouldn't consult a doctor straight away if they had a sexual health concern. It's incredibly vital to be more responsible for your body, and break free of shame.

Researching symptoms online was the first move for 18 percent of participants, saying they would turn to sites like Google for advice. 17 percent said they would at least consult a medical website, but it can be difficult to know which ones are accurate.

Over a quarter of Irish people (28 percent) rated the information handed out on STIs and symptoms in school as 'poor', or 'awful'. That's Catholic Church-state education for ya…

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Men were slightly more likely to talk to their doctor about a sexual health concern than women, with 65 percent of men stating this as opposed to 60 percent of women. This may be due to the gender pain gap in healthcare.

Interestingly, men were less likely to confide in their partner or a friend than women. A quarter of men would wait until symptoms developed before getting an STI check, instead of 21 percent of women.

Only 8 percent of men said they would never get checked after unprotected sex, compared to 7 percent of women. These is still shockingly low numbers…

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Superintendent Pharmacist at Medicine Direct,Hussain Abdeh, commented on the discoveries:

“In light of our findings, we made our fruity guide to STI symptoms to try and raise the conversation about positive sexual health and to make it easier to spot potential STI symptoms.

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“It’s worth remembering that for some STIs, such as chlamydia, there can be no visible symptoms – but they can be very damaging if left untreated.

"That’s why it’s so important to work regular STI testing into your life and treat it as a normal part of your lifestyle as a sexually responsible individual." he added.

It's imperative that checking your sexual health regularly becomes the norm.

Remember folks; if in doubt, check it out.

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You can find more information about STI symptoms on the Medicine Direct website, and St James' Hospital also has a free STI clinic called The GUIDE.

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Prince Harry and Sir Elton John have teamed up to fight against HIV infections in men.

The two have been long-time friends. Elton was a close friend to Princess Diana, Harry’s mother, and just two months ago, performed at the Duke and Duchess’ wedding reception in Windsor.

There is no doubt that part of Prince Harry's motivation is to pay tribute to his mother through this noble coalition. Both Elton and Harry had so much love for Princess Diana, and now they get to to share their passion for the same cause.

On Tuesday, they attended the 2018 international AIDS conference and launched their MenStar Coalition.

The two founders donated a total of $1.2 billion towards the foundation dedicated to expanding the diagnoses and treatment of HIV infections in men. What sound lads!

According to Johnson & Johnson, the coalition is a combination of many charities, including Elton John’s own AIDS foundation, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and Johnson & Johnson.

Their objective is ‘to [break] the cycle of HIV transmission and ultimately ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.’

'Inspired by the growing alarm at the rate of new HIV infections among young women, the MenStar coalition is bravely tackling the root cause of this problem — the lack of awareness of HIV prevention amongst hard-to-reach young men.' – The Duke of Sussex #AIDS2018 pic.twitter.com/gULicuKIKi

Prince Harry spoke passionately at the conference: “We succeed when we put people at the heart of our strategies. [..]

“This campaign is bravely tackling the root cause of this problem – the lack of awareness of HIV prevention among hard to reach young men.”

The partners have joined forces in order to have a greater impact on fighting against HIV. With one strategy and global placements, they believe they can be more effective in accomplishing their shared goal.

“It is time there was a global coalition to teach men to protect themselves, and in doing so it will teach them to better protect not only their wives and girlfriends, their sisters and daughters, but also critically their brothers and sons,” Elton announced.

The global organisation aims to initiate a self-testing campaign for young men everywhere, to increase access to HIV tests and treatments.

It is lovely to see that Prince Harry remains so close to his mother's friend, and Princess Diana would be proud of their ambition to make the world a safer and healthier place.

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A HIV diagnosis is no longer the death sentence it was once assumed to be. Thanks to the work of devote researchers and advances in modern medicine, there are now a far more options available for who are living with the virus.

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a medication shown to dramatically reduce the risk of contracting HIV (over 85 per cent), was made available, on private prescription, through Irish pharmacies last December for the first time.

However, new research conducted by Gay Community News, on behalf of Teva Pharmaceuticals Ireland, has found that 30 per cent of respondents did not know or were unsure whether it was available in Ireland.

As a result, 57 per cent of those currently taking PrEP are sourcing the drug from unregulated online providers.

The study was launched as part of the new PrEPLoveLife campaign, which launches today, Thursday, February 15.

Designed to increase awareness of PrEP amongst groups most at risk of HIV infection and transmission, the campaign also aims to inform the general public on the overall positive effect PrEP has for modern day Ireland.

What's more, the survey also found that just 18 per cent of respondents has an STI test at least every three months, 24 per cent do so every six months, 38 per cent at least once a year, but 19 per cent rarely or ever do.

While PrEP does not protect against other sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy, and it is not a cure for HIV, it is recognised as a powerful HIV tool when combined with condoms and other methods.

Regions where PrEP is used widely have seen significant decreases in new cases of HIV, however in Ireland the incidence of the virus continues to increase, with 29 new cases being diagnosed in the first five weeks of 2018 alone.

Commenting on today’s survey results, Sandra Gannon, General Manager of Teva, said: “Today’s the day after Valentine’s Day and while the build up to Valentine’s Day talks to love and romance, it’s important to remember afterwards that the risk of contracting HIV remains a real one for many.”

“While, thankfully, the disease can now be more effectively managed than was once the case, reducing the risk of infection in the first place should be a priority.”

For more information on PrEP, please visit www.PrepLoveLife.ie.

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Now would be the time to get yourself checked if you have any suspicions that there might be some odd behaviour happening in your nether regions, because STI numbers in Ireland are on the rise.

New figures from the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre show that HIV, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia and Herpes have all seen an increase in diagnoses. 

Chlamydia remains Ireland's most wide-spread sexually transmitted infection, with Gonorrhea and Herpes following in second and third place. 

Chlamydia cases have risen from 6247 in 2016 to 6896 in 2017, and it's maintaining it's top spot on the STI charts. 

Symptoms of the disease include abnormal vaginal discharge and a burning sensation when urinating, and can impact fertility if left untreated. 

However, it is completely curable. 

Gonorrhea on the other hand has seen an increase of 18.6pc. 

Gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection that can be treated and cured with specific antibiotics, according to the HSE. 

The symptoms include yellowish or greenish-white vaginal discharge, itching and burning or pain when peeing.

Herpes is also on the rise, with an increase of 19.6pc.

Syphilis has seen a dramatic increase of 50.4pc. Symptoms include genital sores, flu-like symptoms and muscle aches. 

69pc of those with STIs were aged under 30, according to the report. 

To protect yourself from STIs, make sure to use condoms during every sexual encounter, and avail of free, regular STI screenings.

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So, James Corden has never been shy about discussing his political views.

The Late Late Show host often uses his platform to speak about his dissatisfaction with the Trump administration and on Tuesday night he blasted the US President for his ignorant stance on the HIV/AIDS crisis.

Following the news that six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS resigned in protest of Trump's lack of interest, James took it upon himself to educate his viewers about the seriousness of the situation.

Speaking to his audience, both in studio and at home, James said: “He [Trump] has proposed changes to healthcare, which if they were to happen, would devastate all marginalised American's who are living with HIV and AIDS.”

“I looked up some stats today. More than 1.1 million people in the US live with HIV and AIDS and of those, nearly 60 per cent are unable to access life-saving medications”

“That's not to mention the 36.7 million people worldwide who live with HIV, of whom nearly 2 million are children under the age of 15.”

But, in true James Corden fashion, the British comedian has came up with quite a humorous solution for Trump's ignorance.

Explaining how the film Philadelphia inspired him to care about the disease, James suggested that it may do the same for Donald Trump.

“Maybe Donald Trump doesn't care because he's never seen Philadelphia. In fact I'm almost certain that's what it is.”

Convinced that Tom Hank's Oscar-winning performance would ignite something inside the president, James decided to send 297 copies of the 1993 film to his home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida.

Check out the full, clip below.

Well played James, we just hope it works.

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A man has been charged with murder after infecting his partner with HIV, which developed into AIDS.

Ronald Murdock, 51, from Ohio, has had his bail set to $1.5million after the death of his long-term girlfriend Kimberly Klempner.

It is alleged that the couple had unprotected sex when he knew he was HIV positive, but he did not tell her.

According to Ohio law, those diagnosed with HIV are required to disclose the fact to their sexual partners

He stood accused of not disclosing his HIV-positive status to Kimberly, ultimately leading to her death.

'By the time she found out and by the time everything was said and done, it was way too late,' Kimberly's son told Cosmo. 

'She would have done anything for that man. And for him not to come out in the beginning and tell her what was going on was not right.'

Ronald Murdock faces a life sentence of imprisonment if found guilty of the crimes. 

According to the HSE, if you have HIV, it is important that your current sexual partner or any sexual partners you have had since being exposed to infection are tested and treated.

'If you do not tell your sexual partners and you have unsafe sex and infect someone, they could prosecute you.'

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Prince Harry is well recognised for his charitable efforts, but today the 31-year-old Royal broke new ground when he was streamed taking a HIV test live from Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital in central London.

The Prince's test was broadcast live via Facebook in order to show the public just how easy being checked for HIV actually is and to help reduce the stigma which often surrounds the process.

Before the test began, Harry noted that despite his background just doing the test did make him feel nervous.

He said: “Even being the person I am and knowing the type of people I’m around, I’m still nervous.”

All the test involved was a simple finger prick and the results were almost immediate, but Harry was keen to stress that the hardest part of the HIV screening process is still getting people to take the first step.

He said to the medic: “Once you’ve got people through the door, that’s the hardest bit out of the way.”

After just a minute’s wait, the Prince was shown the result – it was negative.

Despite his good news, Harry eagerly explained to the camera what would happen if someone did receive a positive result.

He said: “If it was [positive] then we would be having a conversation…it is a life-changing moment but it is a series of events that ends up with me having potentially to take one pill a day for the rest of my life.  [And I] can continue to have a partner.”

Harry showed his fun-loving attitude by joking: "So whether you're a man, woman, gay, straight, black, white, whatever – even ginger – why wouldn't you come and have a test?"

He added that in order to normalise HIV testing everyone should get checked, whether they believe they are at risk of having HIV or not.

Well done to Harry for using his status to highlight such an important issue.

Centre images: Getty

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In an extremely weird turn of events, Charlie Sheen claims he is nearly HIV negative.

The actor, who is being treated by a controversial doctor, Dr Sam Chachoua, claims to have mixed his HIV-infected blood with an uninfected sample to test the results of his treatment.

“I’ve been under the care of Dr. Sam for a couple weeks now, and we’re seeing some incredible results,” Charlie said on a YouTube video, which shows him having blood drawn.

The 50-year-old then said he will see “what shakes out” after his HIV-positive blood is added to clean samples.

After a few weeks, Mr Sheen resumes filming and claims that there is "glaring evidence" he and the doctor are on to something.

If this sounds very odd and confusing, here's the video: 

 

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After four years and millions of euro worth of pay-outs, Charlie Sheen has finally opened up about his HIV diagnosis.

Following a tabloid leak last week about a "mystery actor" with the virus, and a number of reports yesterday suggesting Charlie was the star involved, all was revealed today on a live TODAY Show interview.

Speaking to host Matt Lauer, Charlie described the feeling of being told he had HIV "roughly four years ago". He first visited a doctor after suffering a series of terrible headaches and unexplained sweating.

"I thought I had a brain tumour. I thought it was over," he confessed.

"It's a hard three letters to absorb. It's a turning point in one's life."

The actor is father to five children by three different women: Cassandra, 30, with ex-girlfriend Paula Profit; Sam, 11, and Lola, 10, with ex-wife Denise Richards; and twins Bob and Max, 6, with ex-wife Brooke Mueller.

Given that he split from his third wife, Brooke, in 2011, it seems his diagnosis came after that time.

Asked if he may have transferred the virus onto any of his sexual partners before or since the diagnosis, Charlie insisted it was "impossible" that anyone else was infected.

"I always led with condoms and honesty when it came to my condition," said Charlie, in a letter written to the TODAY Show host before this morning's live interview.

Despite trying for years to keep his diagnosis a secret – something that involved a number of gagging orders – Charlie said he had to come clean to put a series of nasty rumours to rest.

"I am in fact HIV positive," he told Lauer.

"I have to put a stop on this onslaught, to this barrage of attacks, of sub-truths and very harmful and material stories [that say I was] threatening the health of so many others, which couldn't be farther from the truth."

Just this morning it was reported that the Two And A Half Men star could face jail if it was proven in court that he knowingly had unprotected sex without informing his partner of his health status.

In Calfornia, it is a crime for someone to have unprotected sex when that person knows he or she is infected with a "communicable disease" (such as HIV). 

Today, Mail Online is reporting an exclusive which details Mr Sheen's many personal troubles – following on from the reported drug and alcohol binges in 2011 that saw him get fired from Two And A Half Men.

Saying he has become a "recluse in his own home," the website adds that the actor is addicted to crack cocaine, which he would smoke while repeatedly watching his old movies.

Speaking about the feeling of going public with his HIV diagnosis, Charlie said: "I release myself from this prison today."

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He's reportedly spent some €7m keeping his HIV positive status a secret, but Charlie Sheen may now be facing yet more financial – and indeed, legal – woes. 

The 50-year-old Hollywood star has been married three times and is resident in California. There, it is a crime for someone to have unprotected sex when that person knows he or she is infected with a "communicable disease" (such as HIV). 

If convicted, he'd face six months in jail. And if it was proven in court that he knowingly had sex with another person with the specific intent of transmitting the disease, then he could be looking at eight years in prison. 

Of course, Charlie has not specifically said if he's had unprotected sex or not. However, he's already settled several cases with people who were involved with the actor and who were unaware of his HIV status.

One settlement is said to have occurred as recently as last month.

Police sources have told TMZ that as of yet, no one has come forward yet complaining Mr Sheen exposed them to the virus.

The actor is father to five children by three different women: Cassandra, 30, with ex-girlfriend Paula Profit; Sam, 11, and Lola, 10, with ex-wife Denise Richards; and twins Bob and Max, 6, with ex-wife Brooke Mueller.

He was fired from Two And A Half Men last year after going on repeated drug and alcohol benders. Charlie then went on to have a very public breakdown, giving a semi-incoherent, now-infamous interview to ABC’s 20/20.

Today, Mail Online is reporting an exclusive which details Mr Sheen's many personal troubles.

Saying he has become a "recluse in his own home," the website adds that the actor is addicted to crack cocaine, which he would smoke while repeatedly watching his old movies.

Mail Online adds that both male and female porn stars were paid anything from €23,000 to €32,000 a night each to "hang out with him" at his upmarket home. He is said to have had sexual relations with numerous men and women working in the adult entertainment industry.

Radar Online says Mr Sheen has been HIV positive for four years, with The National ENQUIRER breaking the details of his cover-up yesterday.

 

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