Changes to blood donation rules being implemented in Northern Ireland

The changes that were announced last year are finally going to be implemented from Monday August 16.

A person giving blood

In December 2020, changes to the rules concerning blood donation by men who have sex with men were proposed for Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. The relaxation of the rules were implemented for England, Scotland and Wales on June 14, but were delayed in Northern Ireland due to a shortage in staff and training resources. 

The changes are finally being implemented in Northern Ireland on Monday August 16. Previously men who had been in a same-sex relationship had to wait for a year after their last sexual activity before donating blood. 

In June, a statement from the NHS Blood and Transplant said: “Under the changes, people can donate if they have had the same sexual partner for the last three months, or if they have a new sexual partner with whom they have not had anal sex, and there is no known recent exposure to an STI or recent use of PrEP or PEP. This will mean more men who have sex with men will be eligible to donate.”

Any individual who wishes to give a blood donation in Northern Ireland – regardless of gender – will be asked if they have had sex and, if so, about recent sexual behaviours. The new rules will result in more eligible blood donors than ever before, the NI Blood Transfusion Service says. 

Director of LGBTQ+ support group The Rainbow Project, John O’Doherty, said: “Donating blood is not a right, but a civic responsibility on all of us who are eligible to do so. The focus of The Rainbow Project will now turn to encouraging all those people who are now eligible to register as blood donors.” 

Health Minister Robin Swann welcomed the move, adding that it “will enable some people, previously excluded from donating blood, to have the opportunity to help save lives. I recognise the hard work by the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service in implementing these changes, and I would encourage all those now eligible to register as donors.” 

To find out if you are eligible to donate blood in Northern Ireland, or to check out the new donor eligibility questions, visit the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service website.

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