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Dublin: 6 °C Tuesday 22 October, 2019
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Lifetime ban on gay men donating blood lifted

From today, a man who last had sex with another man more than 12 months ago will now be able to donate blood if he meets the other blood donor selection criteria.

Image: Shutterstock/ANURAKE SINGTO-ON

THE LIFETIME BAN on gay men donating blood to the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) has been lifted as of today.

A man who last had sex with another man (MSM) more than 12 months ago will now be able to donate blood if he meets the other blood donor selection criteria.

Health Minister Simon Harris has welcomed the news.

He also welcomed today’s introduction of an additional deferral from blood donation of those with a history of specific notifiable sexually transmitted infections for five years from completion of treatment of that infection.

Commenting on the changes, Harris said: “The IBTS provides a safe, reliable and robust blood service to the Irish health system and has the necessary programmes and procedures in place to protect both donors and recipients of blood and blood products.

Furthermore, the IBTS will continue to keep all deferral policies under active review in the light of scientific evidence, emerging infections and international experience.

In line with other countries 

This Department of Health noted that the change in deferral policy relating to MSM follows detailed consideration of the issues involved over the past two years.

This process included the hosting, by the IBTS, of an international symposium in April 2016, where experts from seven countries who had either changed, or were in the process of changing, their deferral policy from a lifetime ban for MSM as blood donors, presented their respective stances, research and the rationale behind their decisions.

The change to a one-year deferral for MSM is supported by the most current scientific evidence available and brings Ireland into line with similar policies in the UK, Canada and elsewhere.

Harris highlighted the importance of donating blood and urged all those eligible to consider donation, saying: “Only 3% of the eligible population of Ireland are active blood donors – yet one in 4 people will require a blood transfusion at some time in their lives.”

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Órla Ryan

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