"We try to do everything to make it less formal" - Taking the stigma out of HIV testing

There has been a rise in the number of HIV diagnoses

HIV, diagnoses, experts, testing, stigma, panti bliss, hiv ireland, panti bar, GLEN

Image via @newschambers on Twitter

Health organisations are becoming increasingly concerned about a rise in the number of HIV diagnoses.

Some 498 people tested positive for the virus last year, up from 377 in 2014 - an increase of one-third in a year. 

In light of the rising numbers, there have been renewed efforts to reach out to people who may not otherwise get themselves checked and encourage them to get tested.

For today's Pat Kenny Show, Newstalk.com reporter Richard Chambers spoke to people involved in testing initiatives - and put himself through two different HIV tests.

Richard Boyle, counsellor for HIV Ireland, explained the testing process, saying "we try to make it kind of nicer...other clinics can be a bit sterile. We try to do everything to make it less formal".

"It's completely anonymous, but we do get them to fill out a registration form - no personal details, but it gives us very useful background information," he explained.

The clinic also uses new technologies - such as an online queuing system - to make the process easier for those who wish to get tested.

There are full blood and urine tests available, but there are also rapid '30 second' tests available. However, they are not as accurate or comprehensive as the full tests.

The rapid testing service here is offered in Panti Bar, operated by the GLEN (the Gay & Lesbian Equality Network).

Rory O'Neill - aka Panti Bliss - runs the bar, and explained why it is considered an appropriate setting for testing.

"It's when the bar is quiet, we give them over the full basement. Obviously, the people doing the testing are trained". 

"The whole idea is to take it out of a clinical setting, because Irish men are terrible about going to the doctor anyway. In a way it's to take the whole stigma out of it, and to bring testing to places where gay people are already," he said.

You can listen back to the full report below: