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Thoughts on Irish AIDS Day 2021


At the heart of our work

On Irish AIDS Day 2021 some staff were reflecting on the privilege of working with those living with and affected by HIV.

The current stage of Covid is incredibly challenging as the impact of trauma emerges, yet there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

After 40+ years of HIV, as we hope for the end, those we support have an incredible amount to teach the world right now on grief, hope, stigma, love, shame and joy.

Listening and loving are at the heart of our work and are the way out of any pandemic.

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ACET 2020 Annual Report

We aren’t big on numbers — we’re more into relationships — but they do tell a bit of the story. These images show some of what last year was like for our work in the areas of care, education, and Migrant Plus.

Migrant Plus is an important part of ACET and during 2020 provided accurate and reliable info — especially around Covid — to migrant communities as well as becoming a vital link between those communities and other service providers.

The care team became very creative in keeping in touch with all our clients, through phone calls, texts, video chats, socially distanced face-to-face visits when possible, and even through letters, cards and small packages in the post. It was a tough year for all but were able to offer our support throughout.

We are grateful we were able to be ‘with’ people in all that was going on and we are overjoyed that now finally we are more and more able to be with them in person.

Here is the link to our 2020 annual report, with photos and quotes and reflections to give you even more of the stories.

To read any of our previous annual reports or newsletters, please see our Contact Us page. To see annual accounts, go to our Financial Accountability page.

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Black Lives Matter Here

Image above of St. Martin-in-the-Fields church, London. Taken from 
As with everyone else, we have been shocked by the events in the US of the last few weeks and we stand with all those who believe that Black Lives Matter, that racism is a real and systemic problem both in the US and here in Ireland and who lament our broken world.
As a response we want to amplify the voices of Black people and of people of colour, both within and outside the extended ACET family. So here are some resources we have found useful over the past while:
Jemar Tisby and Tyler Burns run a wonderful podcast in the US called Pass the Mic. Here they are interviewed by RNS on the recent events. Jemar makes an excellent point when he states that:

“The problem, especially with white evangelical Christians, is that they tend to think the problem of racism is primarily how I feel and act individually towards someone else. That’s things like using a racial slur, excluding someone from your business. So if that’s the problem, then the solution is well, then I’m going to treat people nicely, and some of my best friends are black. What they fail to realize is that racism operates on a systemic level, too.”

Jemar joins activists from either side of the Atlantic on this Greenbelt Festival conversation on Black Lives Matter: Is the church complicit?
We do not do church planting in ACET and we are not a church, but we have found in the work of decolonising church planting and the exploration of what a multi-ethnic church really is that there are many resonances with our ethos and values. Dominance, equity, justice, gentrification, incarnation, colonialist practices and displacement all get highlighted by the team at the V3 Movement here.
In 2016 we had an office on O’Connell Street overlooking the GPO. Observing the centenary of the Easter Rising began a journey of exploring theology and place – that the story of the soil beneath our feet and the place we share life with others is not incidental to our present circumstances. Here is the Yale University Professor Willie Jennings, the foremost voice on the theology of race and place, with his response to recent events.
Rev. Sandra Moon from Kentucky, USA, was the guest preacher at Lucan Presbyterian Church, one of our supporting churches where some of our staff attend. Her sermon on the language of Anti-Racism begins 11:25 in.
We know from experience that ‘delocalising’ is one of the traps of responding to any justice issue. This is where one cites the voice of someone overseas who you already agree with while ignoring the voice of the person directly affected on your street or in your city or in your pew. This has been seen recently with the treatment of LGBT Christians in Ireland. So following our emphasis on the importance of race and place here are some resources from those you share the soil with:
Our Board member Dr. Ebun Joseph is a passionate advocate for black people in Ireland, not least in her field of academia. Check out her Twitter handle.
The team at VOX magazine is in the middle of a series on racism and this includes many voices we have had the privilege of working alongside in ACET. Pastor Gerard Chimbganda, our near neighbour in the North East Inner City of Dublin, begins the series.
Gerard and ACET CEO, Richard Carson, joined together to review two books on race for VOX magazine in 2018. See their discussion.
Finally, Kevin Hargaden from the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, up the road from us on Gardiner Street, reminds us that Ireland’s treatment of the Travelling Community long demonstrates that the Irish criminal justice system is already racist.
In the V3 movement webinar above, Erica Wrencher cautions against the ‘snippeting’ of ethnic minorities, that is where those of us in the majority take a tiny picture of the culture and life of the other and think that we have now become multi-ethnic as we “consume the McDonalds nugget” from a place of scarcity. We are acutely aware that a truly shared life with our neighbours will require a long and steady journey of lament, confession and repentance. A reading list is not the answer. But we hope these resources are a help and that they point us back to a new beginning.




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Where can I test for HIV?

Where can I test for HIV?

ACET’s new rapid HIV testing service is free, confidential and the result is available within 60 seconds. Contact us at 018787700 or text HTS to 0868374350 to arrange a test.

We have a range of people ready to offer testing and we can come to your faith community, ethnic association or other settings with workshops on HIV which help those we work alongside to understand the changed reality of HIV and how together we can challenge HIV-related stigma.

Rapid HIV testing in the community is just one way to access the test. For a broader picture across the country. head over to the Free HIV & STI Testing Locator Map from our friends at HIV Ireland.

All these testing sites across the island of Ireland offer free and confidential testing. Some require an appointment to be made, some are walk-in. Most offer rapid testing with immediate results.

If you are living with HIV this test can lead you to the life-saving treatment which means you cannot pass it on. Across Ireland in our towns, villages, cities, colleges, workplace, places of worship, sports clubs and more, there are people living with HIV. They are living healthy lives yet still often experience much of the stigma associated with the virus. Contact us to see how we can work together to overcome this stigma.

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Mind the Gap – Report Launch

We were delighted to welcome a wonderful group of HIV activists, social workers, medical professionals, faith leaders, surveillance specialists, community workers and many more to the launch of Mind the Gap – our report on the low uptake of HIV testing among Black African people in Ireland.

Ifedinma Dimbo presented the findings which explored the role of the HIV=death narrative in the memories of black-African people in Ireland. She also explained the ways in which those we interviewed perceive illness and the cultural barriers at work when assuming health checks are embraced in the same way by all people. Ifedinma also highlighted the powerful impact of stigma and how it plays out through secrecy and privacy in black African communities.

ACET CEO, Richard Carson explained how the findings impact ACET’s own project on awareness and testing with faith communities and then led a discussion on integration in Ireland which challenged those present to de-centre the White-Irish assumptions which shape so much of the work in this area.

To download and read the report click below or email us at to receive a hard copy in the post.

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Barriers to HIV testing for migrants in Ireland

Ifedinma Dimbo has stepped off our Board of Trustees to join our staff team as a researcher.

Ifedinma in Barcelona.

Ifedinma will be asking the question “How can we overcome barriers to HIV testing for African migrants in Ireland?” Drawing from her expertise as a PhD candidate in UCC and her work on migrant experiences of our health system, Ifedinma is looking forward to getting stuck into the challenges of the research.

She hit the ground running when gaining a place on the M-Care project of the European AIDS Treatment Group which draws 20 activists and practitioners on HIV and migrants from across the continent for shared learning. Her first session with M-Care was in Barcelona in March; she will be in Frankfurt in May and in Warsaw in July.

M-Care group at their first session in Barcelona.




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Quilt Group: Here and Now, after 25 Years

The quilt group is now in its 25th year. Some of the members are from the original core group — a testimony to the fact that this gathering continues to be relevant in today’s society.

It started in an effort to immortalise those who had been lost to HIV-related illness in the Rialto Crumlin area. As this was very challenging, the group also took time to address hope issues.

New Projects:

Recently the group created some cushions from items, such as a beloved jacket, belonging to those whom were lost. Again, making these was very emotional but we felt that it was a healing project to be involved in.

Presently we are producing a quilt with all the names of those who have died, a fitting memorial to celebrate 25 years.

The journey we undertook 25 years ago was not a certain one, but as it evolved it became clear that this group formed part of bereavement support for families in this area. We will continue to work making quilts as long as it is necessary and supportive to those who grieve.

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U = U

Health News: In 2017, leading global health bodies confirmed that when it comes to HIV, Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U).

This means that if a person has an undetectable viral load (linked to adherence to their medication) then sexual transmission of HIV is impossible, even if a condom is not used.

In education and training sessions, the enormity of U=U is starting to hit home. How we communicate risk and perceived risk to a group has radically changed. Those living with HIV are no longer, necessarily, the focus of attention. When it comes to transmission risk our energies have shifted to those who are unaware of their status as opposed to those who are aware and taking control of their health. This redefining and refocussing is exciting and opens up a new chapter in approaching the end of the pandemic.

Yet, I have been reflecting on why it takes a medical advance and the concrete realities of transmission for us to be enthused in affirming the positive status of those living with HIV in our midst. In the Bible it says that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” People living with HIV have always carried a dignity and identity as image bearers of God. Treatment advances do not necessitate that truth from being real.  It was always there and it has always called us to live in resistance to the stigma that so many encounter.


Image: Prevention Access Campaign

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The new face of care work

Recently, referrals for care support have become more culturally dynamic and diverse.

While migrant clients represent a small percentage of ACETs overall client group, working with HIV and health management is layered with many complexities. ACET’s care team acknowledge the additional nuances associated with a migration story:

  • language barriers
  • cultural differences
  • limited knowledge of local community and social structures.

While medication adherence and clinic attendance tend to be consistent, migrant clients often discuss negative experiences and fears of disclosure, stigma, racism and segregation from their local community.

Unique challenges

Clients who are undocumented or living in direct provision experience further challenges associated with marginalisation and lack of education and employment opportunities. This is often combined with a concern about accepting support from external organisations and becoming identifiable and risking deportation. Finding appropriate working spaces for care support can be challenging when clients are living in direct provision centers or overcrowded homes on the outskirts of communities. Often clients are unable to travel as a result of limited finances and lack of childcare, further isolating them from necessary supports.

ACET sometimes only support

While some clients have made positive steps towards education, work and integration and have opportunities associated with being granted leave to remain or citizenship, others continue to face significant barriers associated with their undocumented status. The care team, sometimes the only support, continue to develop their understanding of the impact of the migration process and sensitively engage with clients on care plans which are reflective of ever-changing circumstances and support needs.


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Culture and Faith in the North East Inner City

In March, 30 leaders and representatives of a broad range of faith communities and faith-based organisations from Dublin’s North East Inner City gathered together to explore their shared past, present and future. Led by the partnership of ACET Ireland and Dublin City Interfaith Forum, the group were inspired in their conversations and new connections by the inputs of the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Micheál Mac Donncha, Fr. Peter McVerry and Salome Mbugua of Akidwa.

Peter McVerry’s comments struck a particular chord as he encouraged those attending to “spend your week demonstrating the dignity of all, which is declared at your worship services on the weekend.” Those weekly activities include supporting asylum seekers and refugees, addressing unemployment, international development, community development, youth work, prison work, responding to addiction, homelessness and HIV, education, leadership development, supporting migrant women, working with travellers, encouraging the creative arts and much more.

“This is a great opportunity to establish a positive framework for interfaith work in this local community of rich diversity and significance,” commented Adrian Cristea of the Dublin City Interfaith Forum.

“For some faith communities and organisations there is little connection with the area in which they worship and operate. Our hope is that this event will start to change that,” stated Richard Carson of ACET Ireland.

Cover Photo: Fr. Michael Casey (Salesians, Our Lady of Lourdes, Sean McDermott St), Br. Pat Geraghty (Christian Brothers, North Richmond Street), Michael O’Sullivan (Columbans, Store Street).

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Micheál Mac Donncha.

Fr Peter McVerry addresses the group.

Salome Mbugua of Akidwa addressed the need for positive integration of migrant in Ireland and the role faith communities can play at a local level. “To make integration happen we must work in solidarity. We must move beyond words and create opportunities for everyone.”

Joe Kerrigan (Trinity Church Network, Gardiner Street), Philip McKinley (Discovery Gospel Choir, Cathal Brugha St), Dave Gardner (Urban Soul/Street Pastors).

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