Blood ban set to be lifted in Ireland

Stephen Donnelly, the Minister for Health, is expected to endorse a phased removal of restrictions to gbMSM donating blood in Ireland.

Blood ban to be lifted - close up photograph of a man's arm with a needle inserted into it.

The independent advisory panel which was set up to review the restrictions on gay, bi and men who have sex with men (gbMSM), has proposed that the current restrictions be abolished. According to an article in the Business Post, the ban on blood donation is set to be lifted by the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, in early 2022.

In 2017, a blanket ban that applied to all gbMSM from donating was lifted. However new restrictions were imposed, whereby a deferral policy was applied to gbMSM, meaning they had to abstain from sexual activity with other men for one year before they were allowed to donate.

These restrictions mean that many LGBTQ+ men are forced to travel in order to donate or are simply denied the right to donate at all. As Thomás Henegan, a regular donor wrote, “no matter how many precautions I take, no matter how many sexual health screenings I go for, no matter how much blood Irish authorities are forced to import from England due to blood shortages here, no matter what the science and basic rationality indicate, I’m automatically banned from donating blood in the Republic of Ireland if I don’t remain sexually abstinent for 12 months before each and every donation.”

The panel is said to have recommended that changes to the current policy be carried out in two phases. The first phase would see the 12-month restriction lifted to four months. 

The second phase, which will be dependent on the Irish Blood Transfusion Service implementing an electronic individual risk assessment, would eventually see the restrictions being fully removed in favour of an individual assessment process. A similar system currently applies in the UK.

The move comes in response to ongoing pressure by lobby groups to bring Ireland’s blood transfusion policies in line with international standards. 

The NXF (National LGBT Federation), this morning tweeted, “Having campaigned on this issue for many years, the NXF welcomes any move to end a policy that is both discriminatory & outdated.  

“We call for implementation of individualised risk assessment without undue delay and for a timetable to be published to that effect”

According to the Business Post, Donnelly is expected to endorse the advisory panel’s recommendations and implement the phased removal of the deferral policy by early 2022, paving the way for the blood ban to eventually be fully lifted.

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