History of Sexual Health West (formerly AIDS West)
AIDS West was established in 1987 by Evelyn Stevens and Angela Savage under the name Cáirde with the aim of providing support to people with HIV/AIDS. In the early nineties, it also took on the remit of providing education/prevention services in the west of Ireland. At that time there was no governmental or regional policy on HIV/AIDS. As the organisation lobbied for HIV/AIDS services in the west it survived on the goodwill of a number of dedicated volunteers concerned about the situation. In time, the name was changed to AIDS Help West to reflect its changing role as a support and education service.
In 1992 after the National AIDS Strategy recommended an emphasis on the role of the voluntary sector in meeting the challenge of HIV, the organisation received funding for the first time in order to deliver its services. It became a limited company in 1995.
“Happiness is Vital” newsletter provides information on AIDS West services.
The late 1990s saw the introduction of the “Happiness is Vital” newsletter which provides information on AIDS West services, up-to-date news and information on HIV related issues as well as a forum for HIV positive people and those involved in this field. The newsletter has been regularly revamped and can also be downloaded at AIDS West NEWSLETTER PAGE
In 2001, the organisation set up its website, changed its name to AIDS West and in line with best practice took as its brief the whole area of sexual health, including STIs and Hepatitis.
During 2003, the organisation developed strong links with the Infectious Disease Clinic established at University College Hospital under the direction of Dr Catherine Fleming. AIDS West rapidly provided a significant back-up service to the clinic which continues to this day.
Local people already living with HIV could now choose to have all treatment and their tri-monthly blood tests dealt with locally, rather than travelling to Dublin. Although confidentiality fears lead some patients to continue to travel to Dublin, the presence of a clinic in Galway led to a huge increase in client numbers.
Changing patterns of immigration and asylum-seeking have brought new challenges to the position of the Support Service Co-ordinator. AIDS West now provides psychological and social support to the entire Western Region and to HIV positive people from a variety of backgrounds.
In 2007, AIDS West was particularly proud to publish the autobiography “Still Standing” by Liz Martin; for many years both a client and courageous supporter of the work of AIDS West.
The “Specialist Certificate in Sexual Health Promotion” was successfully run in 2006/07. Accredited by NUIG it was the first of its kind in the country.
“A Brave Stand: The History of AIDS West” by Maria Joyce was published on Irish AIDS Day, 2010 and records the history of the organisation from those early days to present time.
AIDS West has further evolved in the past decade as an organisation that strives to enable young people to make healthy, happy, and informed decisions about their involvement or non-involvement in sexual activity. This has been achieved through the launch of the WISER (West of Ireland Sexuality Education Resource) programmes and website. A passionate and dedicated education team has worked to deliver WISER in formal and non-formal educational settings throughout the west of Ireland, continuously updating the programmes to incorporate up-to-date research and evidence.
AIDS West began to offer a confidential rapid HIV testing service in 2018, based monthly in Teach Solais (Galway's LGBTIQ+ support service) and also at other sexual health and well-being events.
AIDS West was renamed 'Sexual Health West' in 2020 to reflect the growth of the organisation as a comprehensive and reputable source of sexual health support, advocacy and education. This re-branding was marked by the launch of the new Sexual Heath West website.