Written Answers. - Assistance to Haemophiliacs.

35.

asked the Minister for Health if he has any plans to give financial or other assistance to haemophiliacs who have developed the AIDS virus; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that, through no fault of their own, 106 haemophiliacs have been infected by the AIDS virus through the treatment they were required to have for their illness; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that other EC countries make a payment to people in similar circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

75.

asked the Minister for Health the initiatives which he will take in order to assist haemophiliacs; if his attention has been drawn to the proposals undertaken by the Canadian Haemophilia Society; and whether any of the initiatives outlined in a document (details supplied) could be taken in Ireland.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 35 and 75 together.

A number of practical measures have been taken by the Department of Health and by the Eastern Health Board, with the approval of the Department of Health, to assist haemophiliacs infected with the AIDS virus. These measures are designed to assist haemophiliacs who have contracted the virus, by developing the services provided by the Irish Haemophilia Society, and include an increased grant of £30,000 from the Eastern Health Board to enable the society to recruit a co-ordinator and a counsellor. At a meeting which I had with representatives of the society on 10 February 1989, I offered a further grant of £50,000 from the Department's allocation to assist it in its development work. Haemophiliacs, of course, also avail themselves of the health services available for the treatment and support of AIDS suffers generally.

My attention has been drawn to the requests made to the Canadian Government by the Canadian Haemophilia Society and I am aware that two of the 12 EC member states operate payment schemes specifically for haemophiliacs infected with HIV.

The requests of the Canadian Haemophilia Society are broadly similar to those made to the Irish Government by the Irish Haemophilia Society and relate mainly to the provisions of financial assistance by the Government to those haemophiliacs affected and to their families. In Ireland, the society have asked the Government to establish a trust fund for infected haemophiliacs and their families.

As I indicated in replies to recent parliamentary questions and during the recent Seanad debate on this question, I have the utmost sympathy for the persons involved but this extends to all persons who suffer from AIDS or HIV. It is necessary for me, as Minister for Health, to ensure that discrimination in favour of, or against, particular groups does not enter into our AIDS strategy and if one particular group were singled out for special treatment, it could be seen as discriminatory toward other categories of AIDS sufferers. I am not convinced, therefore, that it is appropriate for me to establish a trust fund for haemophiliacs but to address the problems which all AIDS sufferers have in the most equitable and pragmatic way possible.

Towards achieving this end, I have established a group under the chairmanship of Deputy Terry Leyden, Minister of State, to inquire urgently into the accessability of services to AIDS sufferers generally. This group consists of representatives of the Irish Haemophilia Society, the Department of Health, the health boards, the Virus Reference Laboratory, UCD, and the Drugs Treatment and Advisory Centre, Dublin. The group have commenced their work and will be meeting with relevant organisations and persons to enable them to evaluate any difficulties which might exist in access to services generally for AIDS suffers and to make recommendation to me.

In view of the urgency involved, I have asked the group to report before the Dáil resumes after the Easter recess.