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2021 Annual Report – Migrant Plus

 

In 2021 the two pandemics — HIV and Covid —  continued to co-exist but, because of the speed of the propagation of Covid, it was perceived by many migrants as a more tangible threat than HIV & AIDS. The fight against HIV & AIDS was practically pushed into the background and due to public health restrictions usual HIV community testing activities couldn’t be organised. Migrant Plus used every opportunity to raise the awareness on the sad reality of HIV infection being a real threat that needed to be averted.

There was a big emphasis on addressing misinformation on health, including vaccines. Migrant Plus provided information that was accurate, linguistically understandable, and presented in a format that was culturally acceptable.

The following figures help tell the story of our work in 2021:

You can read our 2021 report here.

To read previous annual reports and newsletters, go to our Contact Us Page.

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2021 Annual Report

“While we had established a rhythm of care work through the early months of the pandemic, starting in to another year with heightened restrictions was definitely challenging and exhausting…”

Our 2021 annual report traces the ups and downs of a second year of Covid restrictions impacting our work with a different pandemic Quotations from our clients add another layer to our report:

“My anxiety has been through the roof non-stop but today I felt like I could breathe again.”

“I just feel as if I’m stuck, stuck in my room, looking out at the drug dealing on the road. It’s brought me to a really dark place and only for the family that I’ve lost — they give me strength to get through one more day. I know that sounds mad but you understand because you know my story.”

While we don’t rely on numbers to describe our work, sometimes they can add a little more to the picture. Here’s what our 2021 care work looked (a little bit!) like:

You can read our 2021 report here.

To read previous annual reports and newsletters, go to our Contact Us Page.

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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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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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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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