Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) have welcomed a report by the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) which has proposed to review the lifetime ban on blood donation by gay and bisexual men.
The ban, which was introduced in 1985 as part of a worldwide response to the emergence of HIV and AIDS, has been criticised in recent years for being discriminatory and ill-conceived.
Now, the policy paper by the IBTS has set out alternatives to the ban which has been submitted to the Department of Health for consideration. Alternatives include a total removal of the ban; a time deferral on blood donation for gay and bisexual men; but also a continuation of the existing lifetime ban.
Tiernan Brady, policy director with GLEN said the report represented a significant and positive development.
“It is 30 years since the introduction of the lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men. It was introduced at a time of international fear and lack of knowledge about AIDs and HIV,” he explained.
“In the subsequent years science has made major advances in understanding, identifying and treating HIV and it is right that we take those scientific advances into account.”
“The priority is that there is a safe blood supply which has the confidence of the general public. An essential part of that is keeping up to date with the scientific developments. The initial lifetime ban was a blanket approach which was taken at a time when there was very little knowledge about HIV and AIDS. Across the world countries are removing or modifying their policies around blood donation by gay and bisexual men in light of scientific developments and Ireland should follow suit.”
“There can be no doubt that the blanket lifetime ban continues to stigmatise gay and bisexual men. The report recognises that for the State to discriminate against gay men there must be grave justification. The IBTS policy document represents the first real step in addressing this stigma” Brady concluded.
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