Positive Life, Northern Ireland’s only dedicated HIV charity has revealed that the numbers of people with HIV accessing its services has almost doubled in just one year.
New statistics show that there was over an 80% increase (18 to 33) in the first quarter of 2017 in comparison to the first quarter in 2018.
This is an unprecedented increase for the HIV charity and comes off the back of several wide-ranging campaigns to raise awareness around sexual health, stigma and its support services.
Positive Life support services includes Counselling, Complementary Therapies, Social Events, Family Support along with Rapid HIV Testing. In many cases, Positive Life offers the only real and meaningful contact that those living with HIV have due to the overwhelming impact of the stigma around the condition here in Northern Ireland.
Jacquie Richardson, Chief Executive of Positive Life commented:
“The courage of those living with HIV coming to us for support is very encouraging. Our work is to raise awareness about HIV, stigma and our services and this is the ultimate measurement of the effectiveness of that activity.”
“For someone to identify themselves to us as living with HIV takes huge personal sacrifice due to the stigma that is associated with the condition in Northern Ireland. There is a significant fear for anyone sharing a HIV+ diagnosis, even to us confidentially at Positive Life, that they are committing themselves to a death sentence and a lifetime of isolation.”
“To see such a rise in new service users is really exceptional and we want to do so much more to ensure that those who haven’t yet accessed our services are not afraid and come forward and allow us to help.”
“We have focussed our safer sex message to make the most impact with those at high risk, particularly among younger people, as we really want to see a decrease in new cases here in Northern Ireland. There has been an upward trajectory of new cases for far too long. We are hopeful we will see the benefits of this next year and the years to come as results are often slow to emerge due to the nature of people affected by HIV coming forward.”
Greater service provision for those with HIV requires funding and is needed to sustain the increased numbers accessing the services at Positive Life Chief Executive Richardson added:
“However, we are providing these services on the same budget as the lower number of service users and this will not be sustainable for too much longer.”
“Although we are seeing more and more people coming through our door, the financial resources that we have stays the same putting our ability to provide for the new cases under extreme pressure.”