Lifetime Ban on Gay Men Donating Blood To End In January 2017


The Irish Blood Transfusion Service will lift its ban on gay men donating blood on January 16, 2017.


The lifetime ban wil be replaced by a 12-month deferral system, whereby gay men who haven’t had sex in the preceding 12 months will be able to donate blood.

In June of this year, Minister for Health Simon Harris announced that he would act on recommendations by the IBTS to overturn the lifetime ban, following similar changes in Northern Ireland.

Tomás Heneghan had originally challenged the ban on gay blood donation in court, but has since removed his challenge following the IBTS announcement.

Earlier this year, Northern Ireland’s Minister for Health, Michelle O’Neill, announced that a lifetime ban on gay men donating blood would be lifted in favour of a one-year deferral period.

Minister for Health Simon Harris outside Leinster House

“My first responsibility in this matter is patient safety. Evidence from across the UK has provided assurance that the risk is lower with a one-year deferral,” said O’Neill. “My decision is based solely on the evidence regarding the safety of donated blood.”

The ban on gay men giving blood was initially applied in 1981 across the UK as a reaction to the rise of Aids. The ban was lifted in rest of the UK in 2011 but Northern Ireland’s then-Minister for Heath, Edwin Poots, opted to keep it in place.

Although Irish LGBT advocates have lauding the IBTS announcement as “good progress”, some have spoken out against the discriminatory nature of a one-year deferral system.

“The one-year deferral period does however still discriminate against many gay and bisexual men because of who they are, when there is no scientific evidence to show that they should be excluded. For example, a male couple in a committed long term relationship will continue to be denied the opportunity to donate blood,” said GLEN’s Brian Sheehan last June.

The overturning of the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood brings now Ireland in line with England, Argentina, the Netherlands, Scotland and Wales who all dismissed similar bans in recent years.

© 2016 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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