Time to end stigma for people with HIV, says Taoiseach
The Taoiseach has said that it is time to end the stigma for people who are HIV positive.
He was speaking at the HIV Ireland Red Ball in Dublin this evening.
Mr Varadkar said that there had been many medical improvements in the treatment of people living with HIV in Ireland, and that progression to AIDS was no longer inevitable.
He said 98% of those living with the virus were being treated with antiretroviral drugs.
However the Taoiseach said that even today HIV was still one of the most stigmatised medical conditions.
This stigma, he said, was an additional burden for sufferers on top of the burden of the disease.
Mr Varadkar said that 25 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality and three years since the marriage equality referendum, the stigma against gay people had largely been lifted.
"The same must happen for people who are HIV positive," he said.
He said that HIV Ireland's research on HIV-related stigma had shown how people living with HIV can feel socially alienated from wider society to the point of feeling desperate.
Mr Varadkar said that it was a Government goal to ensure that everyone in Ireland receives comprehensive and age-appropriate sexual health education and information.
He added that the Government was also developing HIV prevention strategies.
"We are all aware of the recent availability of generic PrEP [preventative medication]. This is a significant positive step towards making this prevention tool more readily available to those at risk of HIV in Ireland," he said.