Minister for Health announces changes to Irish blood donation rules

Stephen Donnelly shared on Twitter the planned changes to the 'deferral policy' on gbMSM donating blood.

Two vials of blood
Image: Karolina Grabowska - Pexels

Following previous news that the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, was expected to endorse a phased removal of restrictions on gbMSM donating blood in Ireland, Donnelly has now made an announcement about the changes to be implemented.

The announcement has not resulted in the immediate lifting of the ban, as many had hoped, but will instead see a shortened deferral time than the current one-year ban.

Minister Donnelly shared on Twitter, “We are introducing changes to our deferral policy for blood donations from men who have sex with men (MSM). The changes will be introduced in two phases with the initial phase being introduced by the end of March 2022 and the second phase being introduced later in 2022.

“The initial phase will reduce the existing 12 month deferral for MSM to four months. This is an interim measure while the Irish Blood Transfusion Service introduces new technology, to replace the existing paper health and lifestyle questionnaire (HLQ).”

The Minister for Health concluded, “This is an important step and follows a report to the Irish Blood Transfusion Service Board by an independent advisory group chaired by Professor Mary Horgan. A progressive move that I hope will be widely welcomed.”


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In response to the announcement, Adam Shanley, MPOWER Programme Manager at HIV Ireland shared, “We’ve long campaigned for a safe, fair, and science-based eligibility process so more people can give blood. Today’s announcement is a welcomed change in achieving a more inclusive approach.

“Our collective priority must always be to ensure the safety of the blood supply in Ireland. The decision taken by the committee, of which we were members, reflects its consideration of available scientific evidence and acknowledges that removal of the 12-month deferral policy is a safe and appropriate action.

“While the recommendation for an interim four-month deferral policy falls short of immediate removal of the ban, it is a step in the right direction, bringing us in line with other EU countries. The move to individualised risk-based assessment by the end of 2022 will mean eligibility to donate blood will no longer be based on a person’s sexuality.

“There’s still work to do — we welcome the opportunity to continue engaging constructively with the Irish Blood Transfusion Service to ensure the new system is developed with appropriate language and all criteria is fair and science-based.”

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