The UK’s Minister for Health, Robin Swann has announced a further ease on restrictions of rules for blood donations by gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men (GBMSM) in Northern Ireland.
In April this year, the one year abstinence period was reduced to 3 months. Under the new rules, GBMSM can donate blood if they have had one sexual partner who has been their partner for more than three months.
These changes are expected to come into effect in summer 2021.
Mr Swann said: “I am pleased to be able to introduce this change to donor deferral policy in Northern Ireland, which means MSM in longer-term partnerships will no longer be automatically deferred from donating blood, provided they have been with the same partner for the previous three months and meet the revised medical criteria.
“My decision to reduce the deferral period for MSM from 12 months to three months earlier this year was based on advice from the advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO).
“SaBTO have provided an assurance that regular monitoring of residual risk of blood-borne infections will continue as normal to ensure that there is no impact on the safe supply of blood to patients.”
NI Blood Transfusion Service (NIBTS) chief Karin Jackson said that a new Donor Health Check would assist in identifying GBMSM who would qualify as “lower risk” and are therefore eligible to give blood.
“I am particularly pleased that the Minister has been able to make this announcement along with the Health Ministers in England, Scotland and Wales.
“This will give as many people as possible the opportunity to donate blood, while continuing to ensure the safety of patients.”
A spokesperson for Alliance health Paula Bradshaw MLA welcomed the evidence-based changes in easing the restrictions for GBMSM blood donors.
“This is a welcome move focused rightly upon science, evidence and individual assessment of risk as another step towards ensuring LGBT people are treated as full equal citizens,” she said.
In the Republic, sexual health advocates continue to work with the Irish Blood Transfusion Service on reviewing te one-year abstinence rule.
GBMSM in Ireland must currently abstain from oral and anal sex for 12 months in order to be a donor.
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