Gay Blood Ban Deferral Period Was Divisive For IBTS

Blood in a phial and a needle held by two gloved hands, indicative of the gay blood ban deferral period

IBTS wanted an even longer deferral period for gay blood donations


The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) and the Medical Advisory Committee (MAC) were divided on the appropriate deferral period for donation of blood by gay men.

Some within the IBTS and MAC do not believe that a one-year deferral period is sufficient to reduce the threat to public safety.

These cautious advisors believe that a five year deferral period would provide more security than a one year deferral period.

The MAC considered the issue in April following an IBTS conference. The MAC “believes that the HIV risk is covered by a one-year deferral but a number of MAC members do not believe that the threat from emerging infections would be adequately covered by a one-year deferral,” the minutes from their meeting declare.

“The MAC agreed that a lifetime deferral was disproportionate and no longer acceptable.

“Therefore, the issue at stake was what period would be deemed appropriate to deal with emerging infections? There were many views on this and what cohort of the population presented the greatest risk.”


Court Case

Historically, men who have sex with men (MSM) were banned from donating blood for life, however a recent recommendation from the IBTS to Minister for Health Simon Harris would replace the lifetime ban with a one year deferral period.

The deferral period of one year relates to the last time that a gay or bi man would have had sex with another man.

Activist Tomás Heneghan took to the courts to challenge the lifetime ban on gay blood being donated which shone a light on the disproportionate and discriminatory measures that the IBTS were enforcing on gay blood donation.

Following the IBTS decision to alter their recommendation on gay and bi blood donations, Heneghan withdrew his court case.

However, a date for the implementation of the one year deferral period has not yet been confirmed.

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

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