HIV rates in Ireland are double the European average
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HIV rates in Ireland are double the European average

HIV rates in Ireland are reportedly almost double the European average, according to the latest statistics.

The number of people in the country suffering from the disease is at the highest it's been since the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.

476 new HIV diagnoses have been made so far this year, which is up from 447 in 2018, according to the Irish Mirror.

In an attempt to tackle the issue, the PrEP prevention programme was introduced in Ireland last month.

PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is an HIV prevention method in which people who don't have HIV take HIV medicine daily to reduce their risk of getting HIV if they are exposed to the virus.

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When it's rolled out in full at the start of next year, it will provide those who enrol with free screenings and prescriptions to those who need them.

To mark World AIDS Day on Sunday, Health Minister Simon Harris paid tribute to the partnerships between service providers and community groups which have helped to introduce PrEP, and help Ireland to sign to a global HIV Fast Track Cities initiative.

Minister for Health Simon Harris

"Today is a day when we take stock of where we are in the fight against HIV," Harris said.

"The most significant development in 2019 was, of course, the start of a PrEP programme which will reduce the number of people who contract HIV in future.

Minister for Health Promotion Catherine Byrne insists the government needs to be doing more to reduce the stigma surrounding the disease.

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"This is a landmark programme and a welcome addition," she said.

"This day provides us with an opportunity to remember those who have been lost to AIDS-related illnesses, and to remind ourselves of the need to keep focusing on what we can do to strengthen our efforts in prevention and support for those living with HIV."