Parliamentary Question for Minister for Health (James Reilly TD)
For WRITTEN ANSWER on 25/03/2014
To ask the Minister for Health if he will take steps to request that the Irish Blood Transfusion Service review its lifetime MSM ban on blood donation and move towards a less restrictive regime similar to that of the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) remit is to provide a safe, reliable, robust blood service to the Irish health system. Blood, and the products derived from it, are an integral facet of healthcare delivery. A major objective of the IBTS is to ensure that it always has the necessary programmes and procedures in place to protect both the donors of blood and the recipients of blood and blood products.
The EU Directive on quality and safety of blood requires that “all necessary measures have been taken to safeguard the health of individuals who are recipients of blood and blood components”. The permanent deferral of men who have sex with men [MSM] from donating blood is not based on sexuality or orientation but on the fact that there are increased levels of HIV infection among men who have sex with men in Ireland.
The IBTS’ decisions are evidence-based and, in making decisions, it reviews the data that are available in Ireland from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre and from other sources internationally. The most recent full year for which data are available from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre is 2012. In 2012, 341 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in Ireland. The highest proportion of new diagnoses, 166 (48.7%) was in MSM. This proportion has been increasing since 2004. Full year data for 2013 is not yet available but the data for the first two quarters of 2013 show rates similar to 2012. These rates of HIV infection in MSM are disproportionately high, considering that MSM account for a much smaller proportion of the population.
The IBTS keeps its eligibility criteria for donating under regular review. It also works closely with blood services internationally and keeps developments in this area under review.