Thursday, 4 February 2021
Department of Health
198. To ask the Minister for Health his plans to accommodate those who require HIV testing but are unable to pay the fee currently required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6064/21]
HIV testing is provided free of charge through a number of public services, including public STI services and through public or community services that work with specific populations, in particular those at higher risk of HIV.
HIV testing is included free of charge within routine STI testing and is available for free in all 23 public STI services in Ireland. One of these services is dedicated to gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) (HSE Gay Men’s Health Service) and one service is dedicated to sex workers (HSE Women’s Health Service). HIV testing is also provided for free for specific populations, such as those who inject drugs, homeless people, migrants and prisoners.
HIV testing is also included as part of the national antenatal screening programme for all pregnant women in Ireland. The latest report (2018) indicates an uptake of almost 100%.
HIV testing is available in all hospitals and conducted where this is clinically indicated. Many emergency departments (EDs) offer HIV and hepatitis screening as part of an ED viral screening programme for anyone having bloods taken when they attend the ED.
The HSE is currently piloting a free home STI/HIV testing service, supported by the Sláintecare Integration Fund, in Dublin, Cork and Kerry. The first phase of tests were made available early January and additional tests will be made available over the coming months. Tests are being made available in a phased manner to ensure there is sufficient capacity in local clinics for service users who may need follow-up treatment or support.
All health services, including STI/HIV services are continuing to face service restrictions due to the current impact of Covid-19 on the hospital system and social distancing requirements. Public STI clinics are prioritising those with symptoms or requiring treatment, and this includes anyone who may be referred for confirmation HIV testing.
Student health services provide STI/HIV testing and STI treatment for their students at a subsidised rate, though some are currently providing testing for free to students, due to the service restrictions elsewhere.
HIV testing is available through most GP surgeries and private sexual health services for a fee. Home HIV and STI testing kits are also available to purchase in pharmacies.