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Friday, 24th February 2012
HSE and the Gay Health Network (GHN), in association with Cavan County Council Social Inclusion Unit, launched the second phase of the National HIV Prevention and Sexual Health Awareness Programme for men who have sex with men (MSM).
Councillor Seán McKiernan, Cathaoirleach of Cavan County Council, officially launched the second phase of the programme at the Council Chamber, Courthouse in Cavan town.
Part of a year-long programme, this second phase promotes the availability of free HIV and STI testing services nationally and aims to encourage regular testing among MSM, particularly among younger men and men living in rural areas. The HSE has joined forces with GHN to raise awareness of the issues among these groups, and the key messages of the programme were developed by a younger MSM peer group facilitated by BeLonG To Youth Service.
Speaking at the launch, Councillor McKiernan said "It is particularly welcome that the HSE is launching this phase of the programme in the border region, given the importance of supporting men in rural areas to access the health services they need. As a personal champion of mental health issues, I particularly recognise the importance of vocalising the availability of these services. Like mental health, the subject of sexual health is one which many people may not feel comfortable discussing, but we need to be open and honest about the services that people need in order to promote healthy communities."
Mick Quinlan of GHN, and manager of the Gay Men’s Health Service (GMHS) HSE in Dublin, commented “Testing is a fundamental part of preventing the transmission of HIV and STIs. If you are sexually active, it is important to get tested. The 2010 European MSM Internet Survey (The EMIS Project) highlights that in Ireland MSM were least likely to have been tested for HIV if they were younger (24 years and younger) or residing outside of urban centres:
•84% of men aged 15 to 19 years and 50% of 20 to 24 year olds had never been tested.
•54% of men living in villages or the countryside (population of less than 10,000 people) and 46% of men living in small towns or cities (population between 10,000 to 99,999 people) had never been tested.
“The GMHS clinic is a busy and critical service. Nearly one in five men attending GMHS live outside Dublin City and county. This further indicates the ongoing need for targeted interventions to promote and increase access to encourage younger men and men living in rural areas to test for HIV,” he added.
Dr Nazih Eldin, Chairperson of the National AIDS Strategy Education and Prevention Committee and Head of Health Promotion in HSE, DNE said “We wish to thank Cavan County Council for their support in launching the second phase of this community and peer-led initiative. Promotion and expansion of testing services is essential, particularly outside of the main urban centres, and the HSE has recently opened a sexual health GUM Clinic in Monaghan General Hospital, providing access to these services locally in Cavan and Monaghan, with a second new GUM clinic just opened in Louth County Hospital.”
According to Diane Nurse, National Planning Specialist, HSE Social Inclusion, “The GMHS report shows that 39% of its clients were born outside the island of Ireland. This inclusive HIV Prevention programme is responsive to the rich ethnic and cultural diversity of the MSM client group; learning from this project will inform ongoing efforts around addressing the sexual health and support needs of this cohort."
A short video – available on the HSE website and at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXZqQTRvaGg&feature=email – will complement each phase of the campaign.
Please visit Gay Men's Health Service or www.man2man.ie for more information on the National HIV Prevention Programme for MSM or to view or download the programme videos.
Preview: availability of film (in various formats) and posters from Mick Quinlan or view at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXZqQTRvaGg&feature=email
Notes for the Editor: