Andrew Leavitt on ‘PrEP’ in Ireland

8RL is delighted to have Andrew Leavitt joining us as guest blogger today. Andrew will be sharing a little about what PrEP is, how to access reliable information on PrEP and access it safely.

Andrew Leavitt is a recording engineer and musician with Dublin-based pop band Clay Hips. He has been active in LGBT and HIV activism for over 25 years, both in the US and in Ireland. He is a founding member of ACT UP Dublin.

What is PrEP?

PrEP—short for “pre-exposure prophylaxis”—is a safe and highly effective way to prevent HIV. Across the world, in places where PrEP is widely used, it’s helping bring down rates of new HIV diagnoses.

Is PrEP available in Ireland?

[Yes] it’s available in Ireland… well, kind of.

Right now PrEP is not available through the HSE. People who want to use PrEP have to buy the medication themselves, and have to take responsibility for getting the proper medical support that’s needed to use it safely.

Looking for information on PrEP and guidelines?

Figuring out how to do all that can be confusing and frustrating. That’s why a group of us from the community — sexual health workers, activists, and PrEP users — created some online resources for people in Ireland who want to use PrEP.

We knew how much interest there was in the community about PrEP, but we also knew how much misunderstanding and misinformation was circulating. We saw the need for a reliable source of information about getting and using PrEP in Ireland. So we created a website‚ getPrEP.online, to address that need.

We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, so where possible we refer to the other excellent resources online—such as the HSE’s practical guidance for PrEP prescribers and their booklet for PrEP users—for more detailed information. We wanted to focus on explaining what’s most relevant for people using PrEP in Ireland, and we keep the site updated as the situation changes.

One of the best resources in the world for information about PrEP is the PrEP Facts Facebook group. It’s a huge group with more than 20,000 members from around the world. They’ve also created a FAQ section that provides solid, evidence-based information about almost everything PrEP-related.

As useful as that is, you might not find the answers you need about getting and using PrEP in Ireland in PrEP Facts. That’s why we also created the PrEP in Ireland Facebook group.

Like getPrEP.online, the PrEP in Ireland group is for current or potential PrEP users in Ireland. It’s a great place to ask questions and share information—like how to find a doctor who will prescribe PrEP or where to get medical tests done for free—with other PrEP users here.

How frequent or common is it for people to use PrEP?

PrEP use is growing rapidly, but Ireland’s overstretched health services are struggling to keep up with the needs of PrEP users. We want to make sure anyone who wants to take advantage of this powerful new HIV prevention method has access to all of the information they need to do so safely and effectively.

We hope that the HSE will start providing PrEP and offering accessible and convenient PrEP support services soon. In the meantime, we’re committed to keeping these resources available for as long as they’re needed.

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