herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

30-second HIV test for pub-goers under Leo's new €150k programme

Health Minister Leo Varadkar
Health Minister Leo Varadkar

Pub-goers in Dublin will soon be able to take a 30-second HIV test when they call in for pint.

Moves are underway to extend screening for the deadly disease to cafes, bars and even the workplace.

Health chiefs have granted funding for the one-year pilot service which could also see free, fast-acting tests made available in colleges.

It aims to make it more convenient for at-risk groups in particular to be tested for HIV, with results available in around 20 minutes.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar said: "The increase in sexually transmitted infections has raised concern among health professionals. Chlamydia has risen from 6.6 per 100,000 in 1995 to 136.5 in 2013."

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen), which will run the €150,000 programme, is currently looking for suitable venues around the capital to host the makeshift clinics.

Tiernan Brady, the organisation's director of HIV strategy, said technology means that testing can now be carried out virtually anywhere.

"No-one in the world looks forward to getting a HIV test, so we have to design services that understand that, that are accessible, free and as unintimidating as possible," he said.

Rapid

"Research shows people want testing that is non-clinical, provided by the community and where results are rapid - so they don't have to wait for instant peace of mind or instant referrals."

The organisation is targeting gay and bisexual-friendly pubs in Dublin where it could run regular testing carried out by trained professionals and volunteers.

Tests involve a small pin-prick being made in a patient to draw a blood sample. This is added to a thimble-sized solution that can provide results within 15 to 30 seconds. In the event that someone tests positive, they will be referred as quickly as possible into the medical system.

"We want to de-stigmatise testing, we need to de-stigmatise HIV," said Mr Brady.

"It is a manageable condition now and the earlier it is detected, the better the health outcome for that person."

HIV rates in Ireland have trebled from 2005, with 314 people diagnosed with the disease in 2013.

The rise in recorded cases is attributed to greater availability of testing, but also a younger generation of gay men who are oblivious to the hugely effective AIDS campaigns of the 1980s.

Most cases are passed on by someone who doesn't know they are infected.

"The more people who test, the better for them and also the better for lowering onward transmission rates," said Mr Brady.

The HSE is to train 100 people a year in sexual health to raise expertise.

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