Health briefing


A round-up of today's other stories in brief

Social mobility can affect heart risks

UPWARD social mobility seems to curb the risk of developing high blood pressure, research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health suggests. Overall, low socioeconomic status was associated with a 42 per cent increased risk of high blood pressure. But the upwardly mobile enjoyed an almost 20 per cent reduction in this risk. And those who fell further down the social ladder were at increased risk compared with those whose social mobility remained constant on the upper rungs.

Reilly rules out lifting ban on gay men giving blood

MINISTER FOR Health James Reilly has ruled out any immediate change to the rule which bans gay men from donating blood.

Dr Reilly said the exclusion of men who have or had sex with other men (MSM) from donation was not based on the risks associated with HIV but on “other blood-borne agents” associated with MSM behaviour.

He said MSM continued to be over-represented among donors who test positive for blood-borne infections.

“While there has been a reduction in the number of new cases of HIV, there is a continued rise in the number of new HIV cases among MSM, who are now the majority of new cases of HIV infection in Ireland,” Dr Reilly told Labour deputy Anne Ferris in a recent Dáil reply. “New cases of HIV infection among MSM have doubled since 2005.”

In common with many other countries, Ireland has put in place prohibitions on the giving of blood by sexually active gay men. In the US, gay men who have had sex with another man since 1977 are not permitted to give blood. In the UK, sexually active gay men are not permitted to give blood either, although the policy there is currently under review.

Some countries though are beginning to review their blanket ban on sexually active gay men giving blood, with New Zealand, for example, deciding to impose only a 10-year restriction.

The Irish advocacy group LGBT Noise is lobbying for similar changes to the eligibility criteria in Ireland. It claims that prohibiting sexually active gay men stigmatises one group of society.


Translated smear test leaflets made available

AN INFORMATION sheet outlining the importance of regular smear tests has been translated into 10 languages by the national cervical cancer screening programme.

The sheet, aimed at encouraging greater numbers of non Irish-born women living in the State to avail of screening, is now also available in Polish, Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Irish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Romanian, Russian and Spanish.

It will enable women to make a fully informed choice before signing their consent to have a smear test.

The National Cancer Screening Service, which runs CervicalCheck, says it is committed to ensuring both its services and information materials are as accessible as possible to all women, regardless of their level of literacy.

“The translated information sheet will enable women to make a fully informed decision regarding their smear test and to better understand the process involved,” it said.

It also said a sign language interpreter can be made available on request at all screening units including those run by BreastCheck.

The national cervical cancer screening programme began in September 2008. In its first full year, more than a quarter of a million women received free smear tests, over 100 of whom were diagnosed with cervical cancer.

CervicalCheck provides free smear tests for women aged 25-60. It is recommended that women have a smear test every three to five years, depending on their age.