“The Government took the finger off the pulse by managing treatment rather than risk”

The above is a quite from Dr Fiona Mulcahy, consultant at St James’s department of genito-urinary medicine and infectious diseases. It is her view on how the Government is tackling the HIV/AIDS issue in Ireland. This year will see Ireland’s rate of infection increase by 20%. This is all reported in the Irish Times.

Dublin’s St James’s Hospital has reported the highest number of new HIV cases in one year since records began, with a 20 per cent increase in positive diagnoses.

It projected 242 people would be diagnosed with HIV in the hospital by the end of the year, compared to 208 people in 2008.

The number of new cases of infections among men who have sex with men doubled over the year. Most of them were under the age of 30.

Most people don’t know they are infected, until they go for routine tests. Women mostly find out during antenatal screenings and men find out during tests for other STI’s.

At-risk groups are being ignored by the Government and they needed to be targeted in a “national sexual health strategy” as called for by the Gay and Lesbian Equity Network (GLEN).

I also agree with Fine Gael’s Dr James Reilly TD who called for a “national education campaign on HIV prevention”.

These two ideas would work hand and hand and need to be implemented if we are to make a difference here.

Of course the Government is not alone on this. A lot of current HIV/AIDS campaigns are focused now on living with disease rather then prevention. While this is needed, the old adage, “Prevention is Better then Cure” is hugely important when it comes to HIV/AIDS. As the Irish Times article highlights, “the majority of new patients did not have health insurance due to their age and antiretroviral treatments cost up to €2,000 per person per year.”

Its time we took stock. Its time we woke up. Its time we educated ourselves and others.

So look at Spunout.ie’s pages on STI’s, know how to use a Condom. Be aware.

So Protect yourself. Protect others. Wear a Condom.

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This is a “momentous” piece of Legislation

Marriage by jcoterhals on Flickr
Image by jcoterhals on Flickr

Last night I attended the GLEN briefing on the Civil Partnership Bill, hosted by the Cork Gay Project and L.inc. It was a very interesting meeting and I certainly learned a lot! We were given a 3 booklets on the Bill and I am currently working my way through them and they are fascinating. The speakers were Eoin Collins, Director of Policy Change at Glen and Dr Fergus Ryan, head of Law at DIT.

A few things struck me last night during the talks by the speakers. One of those was what they called this bill. They called it “momentous”, “profound”, “substantive” and “the biggest change to family law”. A few other things that caught me were that we must “accept progress along the way” (that’s directed at you Marriage Activists) and that we need to focus on “whats in the Bill” (I got flashbacks to the Lisbon Campaign when that was said).

We are going to get this bill whether we like it or not. But this bill will do a lot for Gay and Lesbian Couples (or same-sex couples as they are called). The bill will confer rights and obligations that are equivalent to marriage. It will help to equal the playing field between same-sex couples and opposite sex couples, who at the moment, even if unmarried are better protected under Irish Law.

Just a quick note, remember that the Civil Partnership scheme in the Bill only applies to same-sex couples, while the presumptive cohabitation scheme will apply to both same-sex and opposite sex couples.

So a quick did you know about the Bill.

Did you know you don’t need to be Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual to enter into a Civil Partnership?Under the bill at it stands the Civil Partnership must be between two people of the same sex and not related (ie: Father and son, or brothers etc)

Did you know you have to take vows under the bill? Under the bill a Civil Partnership Ceremony must take place in public in front of two witnesses and vows must be said.

Did you know Divorce (dissolution) is easier for a Civil Partner? Under the bill to get a dissolution you must be living separatelyfor two out of previous three years. To get a Divorce under marriage you need to living separately for four of the previous five years. There is also no clean break in a Gay Divorce, just like in a Straight Divorce.

There are a few distinctions without a difference between Marriage and Civil Partnerships but legally there is not a whole heap of difference.

But Tax, Social Welfare and Immigration aren’t dealt with in the Bill!

And rightly so. If Tax and Social Welfare were dealt with in this bill it would have to be certified as a money bill. This means the Seanad would have only 21 days to look at the bill and the Dáil can over rule it a lot easier. It is important that the bill is being dealt in the way that is. Provision will be made under the Finance Bill and Social Welfare Bill to make changes.

As for immigration, there is a bill dealing with immigration currently before the Oireachtas. This can easily amended to provide for Same-sex couples.

What is wrong with the Bill?

The bill does have a number of deficiencies. It does not deal with children adequately nor does it deal with citizenship. These can be remedied through the stages of the bill in the Oireachtas and Senators David Norris and Ivana Bacik have committed themselves to putting an amendment on Children forward.

What is right with the bill?

The bill will give more rights in the following ares:

  • Shared Home
  • Visitation Rights
  • Succession
  • Maintenance
  • Equality (introduction of Civil Status)
  • Domestic Violence
  • Right to sue for Wrongful Death
  • Pensions
  • Ethics
  • Tenancy

The bill will amend over 130 pieces of legislation. It will allow the law to play a role when people need it most, on illness, separation and death.

This bill is needed now. It would be cruel to dismiss it for something that we might get further down the line. That is the problem we don’t know when, we don’t how, and we think a referendum will be needed. Could you imagine the COIR posters if there was a referendum on Gay Marriage??

This is one of the biggest reforms of family law to be undertaken in Ireland. Hopefully this bill will start a train of reform in Irish Family Law, which is sorely needed!

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How TDs Vote on Civil Unions Bill Could Affect Their Election Prospects – USI

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has preannounced an audit of TDs’ votes For/Against the Civil Unions Bill when voting takes place in the Dáil next Wednesday, 21st February.

Students are to note precisely which TDs try to block the legislation in the Second Stage vote.

The Civil Unions Bill would end discrimination against lesbian and gay people in many areas of law.

As students prepare to consider the audit’s findings, USI urges TDs to bear in mind that the “overwhelming majority” of the public support Civil Union legislation [1].

USI lesbian and gay spokesperson Steve Conlon said: “Students will look to see how every individual TD votes on this legislation. Simply, we regard attitudes towards Civil Union legislation as a litmus test of TDs’ support for fairness and equality. Those who vote ‘Nay’ vote to oppose these principles.

“Because lesbian and gay people cannot currently enter into a Civil Union or marry, they are subjected to statutory discrimination in many areas. The proposed Bill is a means to end this discrimination.

“Civil Unions are not the same as marriages, and USI continues to seek justice for same-sex couples who should have the right to marry in this State. Nevertheless, Civil Union legislation would improve the State’s treatment of lesbian and gay people, creating a better society for all.”

USI President Colm Hamrogue said: “In a very meaningful sense, all eyes will be on TDs on Tuesday when this Bill is debated, and especially on Wednesday when they will vote.

“The Labour Party is to be commended for sponsoring such an important piece of legislation.

“By publicly announcing an audit of how each individual TD votes – and communicating this to students across Ireland – we will be encouraging our members to exercise their vote for candidates who truly represent them.”

1. A Lansdowne poll at the end of 2006 commissioned by GLEN (Gay and Lesbian Equality Network) found that 84% of respondents were in support of either civil marriage of full civil partnerships for same-sex couples.

also reported on breakingnews.ie

I also got an e-mail today from a friend in the SGMHP asking people to e-mail their TD’s on this issue. I think this is a good idea and shall be emailing my TD’s now and will post up the e-mail and any responses I get.

Same Sex Relationships

GLEN welcomes reports that the cabinet has discussed options for legal recognition of same sex relationships and urges that the report of the Working Group on Domestic Partnership is carefully considered; “This report provides a very important analysis of options open to Ireland and it needs to be carefully considered and widely discussed” says Keith O’Malley, Chief Executive of GLEN.

GLEN Chairperson Kieran Rose adds, “The publication of this report comes hot on the heels of a survey which reveals that a huge majority, 84% of the population support equality for the relationships of same-sex couples.

“Marriage remains the full equality option and the option we would like to see adopted” says Keith O’Malley, “as well as being the fairest, most equitable way forward, it is also the easiest and fastest to enact – and the most effective”.

“The choice facing the government now is about what kind of society we want Ireland to be”, says Keith O’Malley, “we here in GLEN are working towards a situation when being lesbian or gay is unremarkable and when same sex relationships are acknowledged as fully legitimate”.

The Taoiseach expressed this same sentiment when, earlier this year, he said “Our sexual orientation is not an incidental attribute. It is an essential part of who we are. All citizens, regardless of sexual orientation, stand equal in the eyes of our laws. Sexual orientation cannot, and must not, be the basis of a second-class citizenship. Our laws have changed, and will continue to change, to reflect this principle”.

The Options paper is availible at the link below