Ban lifted on blood donations from gay men in Northern Ireland

ban on blood

Northern Irish ban on blood donations by gay men is to be lifted, while it remains in place in the Republic.


The ban on gay men giving blood was initially applied in 1981 across the UK as a reaction to the rise of Aids. It was lifted in rest of the UK in 2011 but the Democratic Unionist health minister at the time in Northern Ireland chose to keep it in place.

Currently any man who has engaged in sexual activity with another man is permanently banned from giving blood. The ban will now be replaced with a one year deferral system whereby gay and bisexual men can give blood one year after their last sexual contact with another man.

The announcement is the first major policy change by newly appointed Sinn Fein health minister Michelle O’Neill. O’Neill said: “My first responsibility in this matter is patient safety. Evidence from across the UK has provided assurance that the risk is lower with a one-year deferral. My decision is based solely on the evidence regarding the safety of donated blood.”

She stressed the importance of respecting the deferral rules as although “every blood donation is tested for HIV and a number of other organisms. Not even the most advanced tests are 100 percent reliable.”

The lifetime ban still remains in place in the Republic but former health Minister Leo Vradkar expressed an intention to bring Ireland into line with other English speaking countries. This would mean the introduction of a similar one year deferral system, a policy which is still seen by many LGBT activists as being discriminatory towards gay men.

There have been calls to introduce a similar system as to that in Mexico whereby gay and bisexual mean are allowed to donate blood unless they have engaged in risky sexual practices in the past.

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

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