Rainbow Project Director shares importance of change in NI blood donor rules for LGBTQ+ equality

John O'Doherty and his husband Martin were among the first people to donate blood under the new NI rules in what is recognised as a huge step for the LGBTQ+ community.

Two men giving blood in a clinic while nurse stands by
Image: John O'Doherty - Twitter



In momentous news, blood donor rules for gay, bisexual, and men who have sex with men in Northern Ireland changed on Monday August 16, and John O’Doherty of the Rainbow Project and his husband Martin were among the first people to donate.

In June, a statement from the NHS Blood and Transplant said: “Under the changes, people can donate if they have had the same sexual partner for the last three months, or if they have a new sexual partner with whom they have not had anal sex, and there is no known recent exposure to an STI or recent use of PrEP or PEP. This will mean more men who have sex with men will be eligible to donate.”

In a story on the blood donor rules published by ITV News, the Rainbow Project Director O’Doherty was quoted as saying, “It is a substantial step towards full equality for LGBTQ people. This is an important day, an important opportunity for our community.

“The blood ban was first introduced in response to the HIV and AIDS crisis when we understood very little about HIV and was appropriately introduced. We have stated that it was important that any changes were based on best available medical and scientific evidence and that is what has happened over the past eight or so years.”

O’Doherty continued, “What was originally a lifestyle deferral, meaning if you were a man who had sex with another man, you were never allowed to give blood, that was stepped down to a one-year deferral period. That was then reduced to a three-month deferral period and now we have the introduction of the new FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) assessment.

“I hope there is a good uptake. With the Covid pandemic, blood transfusion service was closed to new donors for a period of time. A number of procedures have been cancelled because of the epidemic and as we try to deal with a backlog of procedures we are going to need a steady and secure blood supply.

“There has never been a better time to register to give blood.”

The Rainbow Project works to improve the physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ people in Northern Ireland.

To find out if you are eligible to donate blood in Northern Ireland, or to check out the new donor eligibility questions, visit the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service website.

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