Today is World AIDS Day and to mark the event, the HSE has launched a new sexual health awareness campaign.
Some 33 million people worldwide are living with HIV or AIDS, including 5,805 people in Ireland. In the first half of 2010, 168 new cases of HIV were diagnosed here, compared to 209 in the same period last year and 186 in 2008.
The new campaign is aimed at halting the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The HSE is reminding people that the best way to reduce transmission of STIs, including HIV, is by wearing a condom.
Among the new cases reported in the first six months of this year, almost half were in men who have sex with men (MSM), around four in 10 were in heterosexuals, while just over one in 10 were intravenous drug users.
Overall, almost three in four (73%) new cases were among men.
According to the HSE, as men account for the biggest increase in new cases of HIV in Ireland, the campaign is focusing on them, particularly MSMs.
"Advancement in our knowledge of HIV and progress in relation to its treatment must not make us complacent. The most effective method in preventing the transmission of HIV is through the proper use of condoms," emphasised Dr Nazih Eldin, head of health promotion in the HSE Dublin North East,
More information on the sexual health campaign can be found at www.yoursexualhealth.ie
Meanwhile, according to Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, there have been major successes in the treatment of HIV and AIDS all over the world.
"Globally we have reduced the number of new HIV infections and deaths by nearly 20%. This means less people are becoming infected with HIV and less people are dying from AIDS. Fifty-six countries have either stabilised or significantly reduced the rate of new HIV infections," he explained.
However, he added that these successes had not come without sacrifice.
"Some 30 million people have lost their lives to AIDS. An estimated 10 million people are waiting for treatment. We must remember that punitive laws and stigma still hurt too many people around the world. Our hard won gains are fragile, so our commitment to the AIDS response must remain strong," he said.