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Here's the super important reason why you'll see stickers on Dublin landmarks this week

Everything you need to know about #HIVPreventionDay.

TODAY MARKS the first ever #HIVPreventionDay, a day founded by a coalition of activists called #BreakthePatent.

This week, #BreakThePatent are behind a campaign which aims to highlight the need for accessible HIV preventative care and to highlight how inaccessible HIV preventative medication is around the world.

Here in Ireland, Act Up Dublin is marking the day by sharing 18 facts about the HIV crisis in Ireland, accompanied by images of “PrEP NOW” stickers that have been spotted around Dublin landmarks.

Founded in 2016, Act Up have spent the best part of two years calling on the Government and health authorities to address Ireland’s response to the ongoing HIV epidemic.

The significance of the number 18 is that there is, on average, one new HIV diagnosis in Ireland every 18 hours. That’s about 10 a week, and over 500 a year.

Ok, what is PrEP, then?

PrEP is a safe and effective way for HIV-negative people to prevent HIV by taking medication before and after sex. Taken daily, PrEP provides nearly complete protection against HIV. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that PrEP be available to anyone at risk for HIV.

“Undetectable = Untransmittable” is true whether or not you use a condom or if your HIV-negative partner is using PrEP or not. As long as the medication has suppressed the virus and you continue to take your medication as prescribed, you don’t need to worry about passing on HIV through sex.

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Right, and why can’t people access PrEP here?

Currently, a US pharma company called Gilead Sciences (which has manufacturing operations in Cork) is in court to stop generic companies from selling affordable HIV prevention medication in Ireland. Gilead’s version costs more than €400 a month, whereas generics cost considerably less, making it far more accessible to the people who need it and making it more cost-effective for the HSE to provide.

Gilead’s patent is one of the barriers to accessible PrEP. Currently, PrEP is not available through the HSE . Doctors can prescribe PrEP, and all of the necessary tests can be obtained from a GP or an STI clinic, but users must pay for the medication themselves.

Act Up says it has requested a meeting with Minister for Health, Simon Harris and, despite numerous inquiries and verbal assurances from the Minister, they have yet to receive a formal response regarding a meeting as of yet.

Cool, how can I get involved?

Act Up Dublin’s regular meetings are on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of each month. Tonight’s meeting (17 July) is at 6:30pm in Jigsaw, 10 Belvedere Court, Dublin 1.

On #HIVPreventionDay, join us in tackling Ireland’s HIV crisis from a grassroots level.

To learn more, you can follow Act Up Dublin on Twitter here.

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