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Rapid HIV Testing – Coming to you


1st December is World AIDS Day and the global theme is “Know your Status.” A finger-prick 60 second test is all it takes if you are unsure of your HIV status. Head over to this Testing Locator by our friends HIV Ireland to find your nearest venue.

ACET Ireland is launching a new HIV awareness and testing initiative for faith communities on World AIDS Day, Saturday 1st December. This is a day when we remember the many millions who have died in the global pandemic and recognise our role in responding to the current challenges. With over 1,000 people living with HIV in Ireland undiagnosed and rates of late diagnosis among the highest in Western Europe it is vital that HIV testing is brought to where people are at.

ACET’s project involves free, confidential and rapid HIV tests being offered to faith communities around the country. However barriers to testing are not merely understood in terms of access or availability. They are also about the complexities of culture, expectation, place, secrecy and much more. For Christians our faith in Jesus must interact with all these realities. These are issues ACET are eager to get stuck into as part of our work supporting local churches. With highly trained staff our workshops, discussions and supports do more than just offer a test, they encourage congregations and their leaders to engage with the challenges of integration, of diversity and of mission. 

HIV treatment is now so effective that if a person is adhering to their medicine and have what is called an ‘undetectable load’ of the virus (as is the case for almost all who adhere) then sexual transmission to another person is impossible. This is called U=U,  Undetectable = Untransmittable,  and is changing the story of HIV. The UK has seen a 28% decrease in HIV diagnoses over the past two years in part as a result of the impact of treatment as prevention. Ireland is still yet to turn this corner. Testing, therefore, plays a vital role.

“We are bringing rapid HIV testing but we are bringing much more than that. New realities of the impact of HIV treatment completely transforms people’s perspective of the story of the virus.” said ACET CEO, Richard Carson. “Most of our work is with migrant-led and multicultural churches. We must engage our testing with deeper discussions on what integration means so that we can truly listen well to one another,” stated ACET Researcher Ifedinma Dimbo whose work on migrants’ interactions with the Irish health service shows startling gaps and opportunities for improvement

For more information on this project contact ACET at dublin@acet.ie

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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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Culture, Faith and Community Event

Learning from the past and looking to a shared future: 

You are invited to this important upcoming event which is part of Dublin’s North East Inner City’s regeneration project (www.neic.ie). We are gathering leaders and members from a  wide range of faith communities and faith-informed organizations in the NEIC, alongside community workers, activists and residents engaged with issues of justice, diversity, integration and community development.

Speakers include:

  • Terry Fagan – North Inner City Folklore Project
  • Salome Mbugua – AkiDwA
  • Lord Mayor of Dublin, Ardmhéara Micheál Mac Donncha
  • Father Peter McVerry SJ

All are welcome.

Thursday, 15 March, 9.30-1.00, Edmund Rice House, North Richmond Street, Dublin 1

Hosted by Dublin City Interfaith Forum and ACET.

Thanks to Dublin North East Inner City.

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Happy Christmas!

Thank you all for your interest and support throughout 2017. We are looking forward to 2018 with hope.

We wish all of you a very happy and peaceful Christmas,

the ACET team:

Richard, Terrie, Vivienne, Olivia, Hansi and Lynn

Our office is closed until 8 January 2018.

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World AIDS Day 2017 in Dublin

ACET staff marked World AIDS Day in three counties:

Richard Carson, ACET CEO, was a guest at an evening reception in Áras an Uachtaráin for HIV Ireland, at the invitation of President Michael D Higgins “to mark World AIDS Day, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of HIV Ireland, and to pay tribute to people and organisations working to prevent the spread of AIDS and assisting people living with HIV.”

ACET founder and quilt group coordinator Terrie Colman-Black and Olivia Corbett, care worker, were part of an Intergenerational Plenary at NUI Maynooth, where the Media Studies Department hosted “AIDS and Irish Media: Intergenerational Dialogues“.

Hansi Chisnall travelled to Galway for a conference, HIV and Ageing, hosted by AIDS West.

 

 

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Friends Remembering Friends

You are invited to join us in St Andrew’s Resource Centre on 30 November to remember friends, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, and community members who have passed away.

With songs, inspirational readings, and reciting of names, Friends Remembering Friends gives a space to reflect on those we love who are no longer with us.

Hosted by ACET board member Tony MacCarthaigh and the quilt group, who will unveil their most recent work, the event is both memorial and celebratory, as together we look to the life that is around us.

Thursday, 30 November, 12 noon, St Andrew’s Resource Centre, Rialto, Dublin 8

FriendsRememberingFriends

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