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The vaccine will help to prevent HPV infection which can cause HPV-associated cancers and genital warts.
Dr Fiona Lyons, Clinical Lead for Sexual Health, HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme, announced that the HSE would be making the HPV vaccine available to MSM and to people living with HIV.
Speaking today at the HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme Conference, which marks one year since the launch of the National Sexual Health Strategy, Dr Lyons commented: “It is important that MSM have access to the HPV vaccine because they do not benefit from the herd immunity conferred through vaccinating adolescent girls. The HPV vaccination has been made available to men and women living with HIV under 26 years of age since October through HSE HIV Services.”
Minister of State for Health Promotion, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, said the increases in STIs and HIV, particularly among MSM, is “cause for concern” and late diagnosis of HIV remains a problem.
“At the launch of the strategy last year, my Department provided funding to pilot a peer-led, point of care HIV-testing initiative in pubs and clubs. This pilot has had considerable success in identifying new cases of HIV. As we all know, earlier diagnosis of HIV allows for timely initiation of treatment which confers significant benefits on the individual living with HIV and reduces transmission within the population. The HSE is currently reviewing how this method of testing might be further rolled out in 2017.”
The HSE HPSC has convened a multi-sectoral National MSM HIV/STI Outbreak Response Group, to investigate the reasons for and to develop an effective response to the increase seen in HIV, syphilis, and gonorrhoea in MSM.
Chair of the Group, Dr Derval Igoe, said: “Working in partnership with the Gay Health Network and Positive Now means that we are in a good position to reach affected communities, raise awareness and provide clear health promotion and harm reduction messages effectively. Safer sex through use of condoms with new or casual partners, and regular testing for STI and HIV are key.”
Ms Helen Deely, Head of the HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme, provided an update on significant developments in 2016, including a review of crisis pregnancy counselling services with a view to establishing a new model for service delivery. The HSE currently funds 16 organisations to provide 40 services nationwide.
“There has been a steady decline in women attending face-to-face crisis pregnancy counselling in recent years,” said Ms Deely. “In 2017, we intend to move towards a national crisis pregnancy counselling telephone service which we hope will encourage more women to access crisis pregnancy counselling if they require it.”