The Sexual Health Centre has been providing support to people living with HIV since its inception as Cork AIDS Alliance in 1987. Friday, June 15th marks Irish AIDS Day.  “Many people living with HIV still experience stigma relating to their diagnosis negatively impacting a person’s wellbeing.  Irish AIDS Day provides a perfect opportunity to challenge this stigma,” says Dr Martin Davoren, Executive Director of the Sexual Health Centre.

In 2016, the U=U campaign was launched and has been very important in challenging stigma related to HIV.  U=U stands for Undetectable = Untransmittable.  U=U challenges stigma by making people aware that HIV positive people with a sustained undetectable viral load (less than 40 copies in a millileter of blood) are not infectious to their sexual partners.

Staff and volunteers of the Sexual Health Centre will be offering free rapid HIV testing at Chambers, Washington Street, from 6 PM until 8PM on Thursday, June 14th.  Free testing will also be available at the Sexual Health Centre, 16 Peters Street, all day on Irish AIDS Day, Friday, June 15th.  “This Irish AIDS Day we are asking people to fight stigma and to know their HIV status by joining us with our #pledgetest campaign. Everyone has a HIV status, find our yours in one-minute” he says.

The Sexual Health Centre works in partnership with HIV Ireland, GOSHH in Limerick and AIDS West in Galway, on a volunteer led rapid HIV testing initiative called KnowNow.  “People living with HIV, who are accessing treatment, can now expect to live as long as the general population.  It is important that a HIV positive person knows their status, so they can access specialist care and reduce the risk of onward transmission” says Dr Davoren.  “KnowNow aims to ensure that getting tested for HIV is as easy and accessible as possible.  To this end, our passionate volunteers and staff facilitate outreach testing sessions in a number of venues each month.  People who get a reactive result are referred to the HIV team in Cork University Hospital for a confirmatory test and are informed of the counselling and group supports available to them from the Sexual Health Centre.”

Further to the testing initiatives provided by the Sexual Health Centre, an open meeting on the future for HIV activism and awareness raising in Cork will be held on June 15th, from 7 to 8:30pm.  This meeting is a collaboration between the Cork Gay Project and the Sexual Health Centre. It will be hosted in the Cork Gay Project on South Terrace.  The meeting will hear from a range of voices and perspectives, including Will St Leger from Act Up Dublin, Dr. Martin Davoren from the Sexual Health Centre and Pádraig Rice from the Cork Gay Project.