I propose to take Questions Nos. 577 and 578 together.
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.
Decisions of the IBTS on such matters are based on available evidence. Data available in Ireland from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, as well as from international sources, is kept under review. The most recent full year data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre is in respect of 2012 and in that year 341 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in Ireland. The highest proportion of new diagnoses, 166 (nearly 49%), was in MSM and this proportion has been increasing since 2004. Full year results for 2013 are not yet available but the data for the first two quarters of that year show rates similar to 2012. These rates of HIV infection in MSM are disproportionately high, considering that MSM account for a relatively small proportion of the population.
The IBTS keeps its eligibility criteria for donating under regular on-going review, working closely with blood services internationally.