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Patients to have say in gay blood ban - Varadkar

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Health Minister Leo Varadkar

Health Minister Leo Varadkar

Health Minister Leo Varadkar

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar wants to meet with patients' groups about their views on blood donation, but has insisted that it is not an issue of equality.

Mr Varadkar said decisions on changes in blood donor deferral for any category of people will be made on the grounds of science.

Mr Varadkar is considering a policy review from the Irish Blood Transfusion Service on ending the lifetime ban on gay or bisexual men donating blood.

Speaking in Limerick yesterday, the minister said he has a received a report from the Irish Blood Transfusion Service that presents a number of options.

Consult

The Minister for Health said the report requires further consideration and his department wants to consult with patient groups and to seek advice from the Chief Medical Officer.

"I think it is important to do that first because any decision that's made should be made on the grounds of science," Mr Varadkar said.

"This is an issue of patient safety and medical science, not an equality issue in my view.

"And course we always need to bear in mind that when it comes to blood transfusion it's the person that's receiving the blood who takes the risk not the person donating it.

"So this decision will be made in consultation with others and it will be made on a scientific grounds."

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service has put forward a number of options regarding what to do next.

These options include, a removal of the ban, keeping it in place, or introducing a deferral period of 12 months before donations.

Mr Varadkar has previously stated that he is favour of a year-long delay.

The Irish Haemophilia Society has also said it believes that any change in blood donor deferral for any category of people should be based on scientific evidence.

IHS chief executive Brian O'Mahony said the haemophiliac community had suffered most from infected blood products.

Speaking on RTE, Mr O'Mahony said everything should be done to protect donated products and he said the same principles had to be applied to all groups.

"We believe that any change in donor deferral for any category of people should be based on scientific evidence," Mr O'Mahony said.

Haemophilia

"What we're saying is that - and it's not just gay men who are deferred, people with haemophilia are deferred, UK residents are deferred, blood recipients are deferred, people who ever injected drugs are deferred - the same principle applies to all deferrals.

"If the deferral can be changed, based on scientific evidence, without increasing the risk to the safety of the blood supply, then it's acceptable," he added.

The ban was introduced in the mid-1980s, at a time when concern about the spread of AIDS was at its height.

hnews@herald.ie