Students Campaign for Introduction of PrEP in Ireland

The increase in new HIV infections in Ireland has led to a campaign led by students dubbed ‘UCD for PrEP”. The main goal of the student-driven initiative is to engage the Student’ Union to be at the forefront of creating awareness and introducing HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

How does PrEP Work?

PrEP has been researched and proven to reduce chances of contracting HIV by up to 90% if taken daily, this is according to the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  The drug is given to HIV-negative individuals who are at a high risk of contracting the infection. Individuals with partners who are HIV positive as well as those who use injection drugs are examples of people that the drug is given to.

Is PrEP Readily Available?

PrEP has already been introduced and used in some countries all over the world who understand the impact it has on preventing HIV infections with recommendations on its use from the World Health Organization introduced in 2015. These countries include the United States where some people can get the drug free while other pay just a small fee for it and France where the approval of the use of PrEP was given in November 2015 and then introduced to its people in January 2016.

Interestingly, the case is different in Ireland where very few people know about the drug let alone have access to it despite the rising numbers of new HIV infections in the country. According to Newstalk, in 2016 alone, 513 new cases of HIV infections were reported which represented a 5.8% increase as compared to earlier documented figures.

A failing education system, the growth of dating applications such as Tinder, the history of HIV and, a disconnect between the lesbian and gay HIV positive community are among the factors that have attributed to the growing numbers of HIV infections in Ireland.

The Campaign Itself

The drive is aimed at campaigning for the introduction of HIV PrEP and HIV PEP in the country in the fight against the rising numbers of HIV which is thought to be at a crisis point. This is because a new diagnosis is reported after every 18 hours.

Despite the effectiveness of the drug as studies have shown, it is yet to be licensed in Ireland. In addition, presently, the drug has not been included in the HSE’S Drug Payment scheme and trials are currently being done to find out the drug’s effectiveness.

Furthermore, very few people are aware of the drug further asserting the importance of the student-driven campaign. Many people need the drug due to the escalating numbers of HIV infections but very few are aware of what the drug is and how it works.

At the moment, the campaign has been going on without a hitch and without any form of opposition at any level. The campaigners have gone ahead to mention that PrEP does have some side effects but they are minimal and manageable.

The campaign has come to provide solutions for the rising numbers of new HIV diagnoses that have not been curtailed in the past. PrEP has shown its effectiveness to combat HIV through research and studies conducted in several countries. Therefore, it’s licensing is important both in Ireland and in other countries where it has not yet been promoted.