There has been a big demand for free home-testing HIV kits and self-tests for sexually transmitted diseases, with HIV Ireland saying it has received over 4,500 requests for HIV self-tests since it launched in November.

The device, which can be used at home, lets people know their HIV status within 15 minutes.

The MPOWER programme for gay and bisexual men also provides a support phoneline as well as online to get people to link into services.

MPOWER Programme Manager with HIV Ireland, Adam Shanley, said when they first launched the HIV self-test they received orders for 2,000 kits - which was their supply for the year – in just 10 days.

It has received hundreds of queries since then.

The service relaunched its testing kit last Tuesday after receiving more funding from the HSE.

In the past few days, it received more than 550 requests for HIV self-tests.

The number of cases of HIV in Ireland has been on the rise in the past few years.

Provisional data for 2019 saw a record number of cases in Ireland, with 536 new cases notified.

Men who have sex with men accounted for more than half of those.

HIV Ireland says the pandemic has had a considerable impact on accessing testing, with a significant reduction in access to testing for asymptomatic cases.

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However, Adam Shanley says this test is helping to partially address that.

Separately, a HSE service has dispatched over 8,500 STI self-tests, which include testing for HIV.

The service, which is run by the HSE Sexual Health & Crisis Pregnancy Programme, has been running since January.

The project is being piloted in counties Dublin, Cork and Kerry.

Anyone with an address in these counties can order a free STI test to their home. Completed samples are sent to laboratories by post, and results are then returned by text message or phone call.

If follow-up treatment or support is needed, this is provided for free by HSE-funded STI clinics in Dublin and Cork.

A number of services for testing are still available, though many are operating with restrictions.

HIV Ireland are still running their rapid test service.

The HSE says clinical sexual health services have been significantly impacted by the third wave of Covid-19.

It says this has resulted in many public STI services having to restrict services to emergency appointments only.

It also says that over the last year, public STI services have been re-configured with online booking systems and virtual appointments, in order to support STI service provision in line with the social distancing requirements due to Covid-19.

These systems, it says, allowed most services to remain operational during the second wave of Covid-19, and will support the resumption of STI services as soon as service and staff capacity permits as part of the phased prioritised reintroduction of services.