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Sexual Health 2022

Defeating HIV by 2030 through treatment, testing and education

iStock / Getty Images Plus / svetabelaya

Bill Foley

Secretary, Gay Health Network

The 2020s have heralded a new age in the fight against HIV. Underpinning the future of sexual health in Ireland is the commitment to having no new HIV diagnoses by 2030.

The Gay Health Network (GHN) and our partners are committed to achieving no new HIV diagnoses in Ireland by 2030 through a coordinated three-pronged approach: treat, test and educate.

Treatment as prevention

In 2019, free pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) was introduced as a game-changer in the fight against HIV in Ireland. PrEP is a medication given to prevent someone from becoming HIV-positive.

In other jurisdictions, this has led to dramatic reductions in new HIV cases. Covid-19 and the Health Service Executive (HSE) cyber attack mean that we don’t yet have good statistics. Preliminary results indicate some reduction in HIV rates. However, limitations on the availability of PrEP for those needing it will hamper progress. We need the Irish Government to release more resources to achieve the 2030 target.

Treatment as prevention is also available through post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). PEP is a course of tablets you take following possible exposure to HIV. It is available at sexual health clinics and emergency departments and must be taken within 72 hours of possible exposure. Treatment as prevention is the gold standard in reducing new HIV rates. Ireland must ensure its programmes are meeting that standard.

Treatment as prevention is the gold standard
in reducing new HIV rates.

Know your status

If you are HIV-positive, seek treatment to protect yourself and others. One pill a day will allow you to lead a healthy life with a viral load low enough that HIV is undetectable in the body. Not knowing your HIV status puts people at risk. HIV is now a manageable disease, and we need to break down any stigma surrounding it.

Get tested

HIV and STI testing services remain too under-resourced to meet demand. Home STI test kits are available from the HSE at and are helping to reduce waiting lists. Testing services need to be ramped up to ensure that more than 90% of people with HIV are aware and treated.


It is clear that sexual health education as part of overall education is needed. Equipping the next generation with the skills and knowledge to value and look after their sexual health as part of their overall physical and mental health and wellbeing is vital.

With this multipronged approach to HIV and sexual health, the goal of no new HIV cases by 2030 can be reached.

The Gay Health Network (GHN) provides resources and expertise concerning support, prevention and awareness of HIV and STIs, information on sexual health, mental health and wellbeing for gay and bisexual men, men who have sex with men (gbMSM) and trans people. For more information, visit and

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