Hepatitis C, HIV and AIDS

We support the work of other HSE divisions and funded agencies in some key areas. These include the following.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a slow-progressing, blood-borne viral disease where diagnosis must be confirmed by a laboratory. It is a major cause of acute hepatitis and chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis and liver cancer. It is estimated that between 20,000 and 50,000 people in Ireland are infected with the hepatitis C virus.

We drove development of the HSE National Hepatitis C Strategy 2011-2014.

Hep C Strategy

The HSE is continuing to implement the recommendations of this strategy.

In recent years, more successful treatments for hepatitis C have been widely available. These new treatments use drugs known as Directly Acting Antivirals (DAAs). They offer a cure for hepatitis C in most patients.

Other treatments, which use a combination of drugs including interferon are still widely available and used by treating clinicians. However, DAA therapies are expected to become the standard of care over coming years. To make sure that people living with hepatitis C in Ireland are offered effective antiviral drug regimens the HSE has established a National Hepatitis C Treatment Programme.

Hepatitis C Treatment Programme

The Vision – The National Hepatitis C Treatment Programme is a multi-annual public health plan. It aims to provide treatment across a range of healthcare settings to everyone living with hepatitis C in Ireland over the coming years. It aims to completely eradicate the hepatitis C virus in our community.

The National Hepatitis C Treatment Programme is managed by a fulltime Programme Manager and is led clinically by a Clinical Lead. Together, the Programme Manager and Clinical Lead are responsible for making sure the multi-annual public health treatment plan for hepatitis C in Ireland is put in place. 

We support putting in place the National Hepatitis C Treatment Programme. We also support the work of the HSE Health Promotion department. This work involves providing clear, consistent and updated advice about how hepatitis C is passed from one person to the other. This is done:

  • through education and awareness;
  • by developing national guidelines for screening; and
  • improving information on prevalence in different settings in Ireland.

Many people don’t know the risk factors for contracting hepatitis C and may put themselves at risk of contracting the virus. Injecting drugs and sharing injecting equipment is the leading risk behaviour for transmitting hepatitis C.

Learn more about our Hepatitis C Programme

HIV/AIDS

In 2015, 498 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in Ireland. We don’t know the breakdown of how they contracted the disease. But in 2014, 377 people were diagnosed HIV positive. They contracted the condition as follows:

  • 49 per cent (almost half), were men who had sex with men and contracted the condition from them;
  • 33 per cent (one out of every three), had heterosexual sex and contracted the condition in that way;
  • 17 per cent (almost one in five), contracted the condition from a needle while injecting drugs;
  • 0.5 per cent (one out of every 200 cases), were babies who contracted the condition from their mother; and 
  • 11 per cent (just over one in 10), cases contracted the condition from an unknown cause.

In 2014 and 2015, an outbreak of HIV among vulnerable homeless people contributed to the rise in cases. 

Nearly 8,000 people are now living with HIV in Ireland.

Our Role in HIV/AIDS

Our role in relation to HIV/AIDS focuses on the following areas:

National Drugs Strategy

We provide drugs and alcohol services in line with the National Drugs Strategy. This includes aspects of prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.

Needle Exchange

We provide needle exchange (NEX). The Irish Pharmacy Needle Exchange Programme (PNEP) has also been rolled out in areas outside of Dublin.

Respite Unit

We provide a respite unit for people with HIV/AIDS, which is managed by Dublin Simon on our behalf. The unit is located at Ushers Quay, Dublin 8.

Gay Health Network

We have funded the Gay Health Network to develop and deliver a HIV prevention and sexual health awareness project.

HIV Ireland

We also fund HIV Ireland. It aims to improve conditions for people living with HIV and AIDS, their families and their caregivers. It does this while actively promoting HIV and sexual health awareness in the general population.

Community-based Testing

We also aim to support the expansion of community-based testing for members of marginalized communities.

National Sexual Health Strategy

HIV/AIDS now falls under the new National Sexual Health Strategy. This strategy is led by the HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme. We are represented on the National Steering group, which is putting this strategy in place.