The first national report on HIV-related stigma in Ireland has revealed that half of people living with the condition face discrimination from their own friends.

It is illegal in Ireland to discriminate on the grounds of HIV status, but the study shows the need for a new campaign.

Successful TV ads in 2007 by Sinead O’Connor, Andrea Corr, Larry Mullin and others were praised by HIV groups.

The Stamp Out Stigma campaign, the result of a collaborative process throughout 2007/2008 between Irish Aid, the Department of Health and Children, people living with HIV (PLHIV) and national and international NGOs focused on HIV and sexual health, produced the report HIV Related Stigma and Discrimination in Ireland Today.

“The studies found that PLHIV experienced significant levels of stigma and discrimination across a wide range of areas: in families, among friends, in the workplace and in accessing health and social care services”, said Ciaran McKinney, Vice-Chair of the Stamp Out Stigma campaign.

“A key measure of the extent of the stigma was the finding that 49% of those living with HIV were discriminated against by their friends, and 28% experienced discrimination from their families.

“While there is a notable level of sympathy and understanding from the general public, a further measure of the stigma of HIV is that 54% of the public agreed that PLHIV are viewed negatively by society.

“For those living with HIV their perception of the stigma of HIV is different – an overwhelming majority (84%) feel that PLHIV are viewed negatively by society.”

The report was launched today by Peter Power T.D. Minister for Overseas Development, to mark World AIDS Day on December 1st.

“I am saddened by the extent of stigma and discrimination still experienced by HIV Positive people living in Ireland today,” said Mr Power.

“To discriminate against people on the basis of their HIV status is an affront to human rights and compromises our efforts, both nationally and globally, to halt the spread of the epidemic.”

By the end of 2006, Ireland had reported a cumulative total of 4419 HIV cases; these reports included 909 people who had developed AIDS, of whom 397 had died,” according to the World Health Organisation. Ireland’s population is 4.2 million.

Among all the HIV cases reported with a known mode of transmission (93%), approximately 40% had been infected through heterosexual contact, 32% through injecting drug use and 23% among men who have sex with men. For the year 2006, the country reported 337 new HIV infections, 24 new AIDS cases and 3 deaths among AIDS cases – the lowest reported number of deaths since 1985.