CORK is the only city without a PrEP HIV prevention clinic and Cork’s Gay Project is calling on the HSE to create a unit in Ireland’s second city.
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a safe and highly effective drug that prevents the contraction of HIV.
The Gay Project Director Pádraig Rice said it’s scandalous that the government have failed to make PrEP available to the people of Cork as part of its new €5.4 million PrEP programme.
“The Government can’t call this a National Programme when there is no provision in the second-largest city – this is a huge, inexcusable gap in coverage.”
Mr Rice said that as of November 4 there are clinics in smaller cities and towns like Waterford, Limerick, Galway and Portlaoise.
“We were told there was one planned for Cork University Hospital but that proposal never materialised. I can’t understand how people at risk of HIV in Cork can be neglected like this. PrEP has the potential to prevent hundreds of new HIV infections. We can’t be left behind – this is too important.”
The Gay Project called on the Minister for Health Simon Harris to intervene.
“The Minister must intervene to resolve whatever issues may be at play within the HSE here in Cork – including staffing issues’.”
Mr Rice went on to say that for far too long sexual health services in Cork have lagged behind those in other parts of the country.
“This is just the latest example. We have been calling for the introduction of gay men’s health services on par with those in Dublin for a long time - but this call has fallen on deaf ears.
“Every year in Ireland over 500 people are diagnosed as HIV+. About half of those are gay or bisexual men. In recent years the numbers have been climbing. To end new HIV infections we need a comprehensive and well-planned response.”
The Gay Project has been working in partnership with the Sexual Health Centre to provide free, rapid HIV tests once a month - with results in one minute.
They have also been promoting the U=U (undetectable = untransmittable) message.
Mr Rice said: “These two developments together with PrEP have the potential to end new HIV transmissions in Ireland – but this PrEP programme must be accessible and truly nationwide. Sadly right now it isn’t.”
List of clinics: https://www.sexualwellbeing.ie/sexual-health/prep/where-to-get-prep/