New HIV cases have reached a record level in Ireland with new figures confirming over 490 new cases last year.

The surge has been linked to the growing use of a drug known as snow blow, particularly among Dublin city's homeless population.

Figures from the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre show a total of 491 new cases of HIV in 2015, a 30% increase on the 377 new cases in 2014.

The figures show a significant increase in HIV diagnoses amongst people who inject drugs, with a 67% increase in 2015.

Many of the new diagnoses were of people who are homeless in Dublin.

There has been a further increase this year with provisional data showing 231 new HIV diagnoses so far this year, compared to 167 during the same period last year.

On Irish AIDS Day, a new campaign has been launched today by the Anna Liffey Drugs Project and HIV Ireland to highlight the dangers of 'snow blow'.

HIV Ireland Executive Director Niall Mulligan said the trend in new HIV diagnoses must be reversed.

He said the Government needs to invest in the prevention of HIV and this must be included as a priority action in the next National Drugs Strategy.

Ana Liffey Drug Project Director Tony Duffin said the increase in Dublin amongst people who inject drugs and who have multiple and complex needs, further highlights the need for supervised injecting facilities. 

He said it is essential that the draft legislation in relation to supervised injecting facilities is enacted as a matter of urgency, if lives are to be saved.