Ireland Announces New Plan To Provide No-Cost Condoms To Reduce Spread of HIV
Mary Wallace, Ireland's Minister of State, on Tuesday announced a new national action plan to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS that includes providing no-cost condoms to at-risk groups at targeted health settings, the Irish Times reports. The plan also recommends major HIV/AIDS education and awareness campaigns to prevent complacency and to provide accurate information to the public. According to figures reported last week by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, Ireland saw a 7% increase in newly diagnosed HIV cases in 2007, compared with the previous year. In 2007, there were 362 newly diagnosed cases of HIV reported, compared with 337 in 2006 and 318 in 2005, the Times reports.
The HIV and AIDS Education and Prevention Plan 2008-2012 was developed over 18 months using a national consultation that aimed to identify priorities and gaps in the fight against the disease, as well as areas for action over the next four years. According to the Times, the plan places a high priority on encouraging HIV testing among all groups that are at risk of HIV transmission. It also underlines the role of civil society groups in spreading awareness within communities, the Times reports.
"HIV is a preventable disease, and this plan gives clear guidance on how the Irish system should progress its prevention efforts," Wallace said during the launch of the report. Mary O'Shea, director of the Dublin AIDS Alliance, said, "We endorse the plan's findings that HIV prevention programs must be a sufficient scale and intensity to be effective and that primary care and other community settings should increase the availability of HIV and sexually transmitted infection screening and testing." She added that HIV/AIDS services should be adequately resourced and ranked higher on the list of health priorities. O'Shea also called for the full removal of value added tax on condoms (O'Brien, Irish Times, 6/18).