OPINION: Aids Cases Are on the Rise Again. So What Can We Do to Minimise the Risk of Infection?; Dr TOM MOFFAT TD Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children
Byline: Dr TOM MOFFAT TD Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children
THOSE who have ignored the threat of HIV may think that the virus is mainly confined to drug users and the gay community. They may think that the only 'at risk' area in the country is Dublin's Temple Bar.
The very sad fact is they are wrong.
The narrow focus of current media reports and the end of the urgency of the 1980's AIDS scare has helped to create this impression and has done little to highlight the fact that HIV is a virus that can affect us all.
Those who think otherwise might be surprised to learn that the number of new HIV cases reported during 2000 stands at 342.
Put another way, this statistic represents a 64 per cent increase on the previous year and shows recorded increases in all major 'at risk' groups.
Put simply, there was a new case of HIV reported every day last year. Other cases may not yet ave been discovered.
What might surprise Irish Sunday Mirror readers even more is that the rise is not just amongst homosexuals or intravenous drug users.
Heterosexual transmission has now replaced injecting drug use as the main route of transmission of the virus.
We should be clear about what this means. Straight sex is now spreading more HIV than gay sex or intravenous drugs use.
As I have already said, HIV is a virus that can affect us all.
The facts that heterosexuals represent 36 per cent of new cases, homosexuals 21 per cent, and intravenous drugs users 20.5 per cent rubbishes the theory that HIV is only a virus of real threat to drug-users and the gay community.
The number of drug users contracting the virus has fallen from around 50 per cent of overall figures in the 1980's to today's figure of 20.5 per cent, while the number of cases among homosexuals have remained very much the same.
If these statistics teach us anything it is that our gay community remains more aware and more informed about the dangers of HIV/AIDS than our straight community.
More work is needed to ensure that heterosexual attitudes do not lag behind as part of the overall objective to cut the number of new cases.
HIV is a preventable illness and education and awareness are the most effective tools in the fight against infection.
The Health Promotion Unit of the Department of Health has taken a lead role in informing people about the dangers of HIV/AIDS through a variety of awareness campaigns.
Targeted messages have been place in third level colleges, nightclubs and pool halls.
This summer the Unit launched a campaign to create awareness among those travelling abroad of the need to act responsibly in relation to use of alcohol and care of their sexual health. …