New awareness campaign needed to highlight HIV risks to young gay men – Buttimer

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

  • A new awareness campaign is needed to highlight the risk of HIV, particularly amongst young gay men.
Preventing HIV in Europe - Workshop


The number of HIV cases being diagnosed in Ireland is on the increase; most of those being diagnosed are gay and bisexual men, and they are being diagnosed at a younger age. A new awareness campaign on sexual health and HIV in particular is essential if we are to reverse this trend.

In 2013, 347 people were newly diagnosed with HIV; this was an increase of 1.8% from 2012, which itself showed an increase of 7% from the 319 people diagnosed in 2011. Among gay and bisexual men, diagnosis rates have increased by 160% between 2005 and 2012, from 60 to 161, now representing almost half of all new HIV cases.

The lack of awareness and lack of testing is leading to late diagnosis.  In 10% of all HIV cases diagnosed, an AIDS defining illness was also diagnosed at the same time.  Of these 34 cases with an AIDS diagnosis, 56% were in cases of heterosexual contact.

Current policies aren’t reducing HIV rates, and awareness surrounding the illness needs to improve. Many young gay men, for instance, simply were not around to witness the dramatic impact HIV and AIDS had during the 1980s and 90s. HIV and AIDS does not form part of their cultural awareness; they don’t view the disease as a credible threat.

When you consider that between 2005 and 2012 there has been a four-fold increase in the number of new diagnoses among those aged between 25-34, the need for a new awareness campaign is obvious. This shouldn’t, of course, be seen as just a ‘gay problem’. In 2012 there was a 12% increase in the number of heterosexual cases, going from 116 to 130.

Although HIV/AIDS no longer have the same immediate and devastating consequences as in the 1980s, they are still very serious conditions.  As a society we cannot afford to let an increasing occurrence happen without taking measures to counteract it.

The new National Sexual Health will be the first time that a nationally co-ordinated approach has been developed to address sexual health and wellbeing and to reduce negative health outcomes, including in the specific area of HIV.  The strategy is expected to be brought before Government over the next few months.

We need to make young people aware of the risks associated with their actions so that they can take informed decisions to protect themselves.

Posted under Health, National Work

Opt-out system could vastly increase organ donation – Buttimer

Tuesday, March 25th 2014

  • Launch of Organ Donation Awareness Week in Cork
  • Changing to an opt-out system could vastly increase the level of organ donation

Cork Launch of Organ Donor Awareness Week 2014Under our current system of opt-in organ donation, where an explicit decision to donate must be made, we have a chronic shortage of organs available for donation. In 2011, when up to 300 kidneys were required, only 164 deceased kidney donor transplants were carried out.  Even though we have a generous culture of organ donation in Ireland, we rank at just 23rd in European league tables, behind all other countries that have a soft-opt out system. Our current system is not working and I believe a change is needed if we want to help more people who are in need of an organ transplant.

The opt-in system is used by only a small minority of EU countries, and those which have changed to an opt-out system have seen significant increases in their rates of organ donation. Over a three year period after making the change to an opt-out system, Belgium saw its rate of organ donation increase by 100%, while over the same period, Singapore saw an increase of 700%.

Through my chairmanship of the Health Committee, I have had the opportunity to discuss this issue in detail with people who are directly affected by organ donation. As well as this, the Committee has held two hearings on organ donation, when we heard from a wide range of stakeholders, including organ donors and recipients, medical professionals, support organisations and the Department of Health.

The Government has begun a consultative process regarding the move to a process of opt-out consent. Changing to a soft opt-out system has the potential to change public attitudes toward organ donation, and more importantly to vastly increase our rate of organ donation. It is important to state that even if this change was made, we must ensure that in all instances a person’s family always has the final say.  This maintains the principle that donation is a gift and it would help in changing public attitudes so that donation becomes the norm, not the exception.

However, any transition to a soft opt-out system must be supported by increased investment in essential infrastructure, transplant surgeons and trained support staff.  Each kidney transplant has the potential to save €680,000 over a 15 year period, so a short term investment in our organ donation infrastructure has the potential to deliver real long term savings for our health system, not to mention the long term benefits to the lives of organ recipients.

I was pleased, therefore, that as part of Budget 2014 the Minister for Health prioritised the development of a robust organ donation and transplantation infrastructure, with the allocation of an extra €2.92 million for organ donation and transplantation services in 2014.  These additional resources will be a great help in increasing the levels of organ donation and transplantation and it will be of benefit to patients and their families.

Changing our system of consent will only be of limited benefit unless the necessary infrastructure to support the intended change is put in place.  At the end of the year we must see real progress in delivering an improved environment for organ donation and transplantation in Ireland. Over the last twelve months we have made a lot of progress in moving to change our system of consent and also in delivering a robust organ donation infrastructure.  We need to continue to make this progress, ensure that the momentum is harnessed and that real improvements are delivered.

Posted under Cork, Health, National Work

Buttimer urges Section 38 agencies to prioritise compliance with pay policy

Wednesday, February 19th 2014

  • Section 38 agencies encouraged to comply with public sector pay policies.
  • HSE warns sole remaining agency which is deemed to be non-compliant that its funding may be cut by 20%.

All Section 38 agencies have a contractual obligation to comply with public sector pay policy.  At a time when available funding is limited due to economic constraints it is critical that all agencies achieve compliance.  I encourage each agency to make every effort to comply and, in particular, I would ask St. Vincent’s University Hospital to immediately review its own position and achieve immediate compliance.

I would also ask all of those agencies that have made business cases for exceptions from public sector pay policy to review their own positions.  Any deviation from the general pay policy should be a rare exception.  Each agency that has made a business case for an exception should explore every possible option so as to achieve full compliance without exception.

What must be at the forefront of the policy of each agency is the care and service delivered to their patients.  Service delivery should be the priority of each Section 38 agency.  However, when an agency is not adhering to public sector pay policy it begs the question as to whether it prioritises service delivery or the salaries of senior personnel.

It is incumbent on those in leadership positions to take difficult decisions to ensure that the quality of service is maintained during difficult economic times.  If the decisions taken by senior management are to be credible and achieve a buy-in from other staff members then their decisions must impact on the salaries of senior personnel. It cannot only be the frontline staff and services that are affected by critical decisions.”

Posted under Health, National Work