USI renews call for deferral period ban on gay and bisexual blood donors to be abolished

The NUS-USI has welcomed recent changes in NI to decrease the deferral period but call for the "discriminatory ban” to be completely removed.

USI blood ban
Image: @USI_Welfare

The National Union of Students-Union of Students in Ireland (NUS-USI) has said the evidence-based changes to the criteria for blood donations in Northern Ireland is a welcome first step while reiterating calls for the “discriminatory ban” to be completely removed.

USI has now called for the same approach to be taken in the Republic of Ireland where a one-year deferral period remains in place for blood donations by gay and bisexual men.

NUS-USI President, Robert Murtagh said while the announcement that the one year abstinence period for blood donations by gay and bisexual men in Northern Ireland will be reduced is a “positive step”, he has called for the deferral period to be removed completely.

“It is a positive step forward that the MSM [men who have sex with men] deferral period ban on giving blood has been reduced. In Northern Ireland, this discriminatory ban is a hangover from the 1980s, a time that has long since passed. In this time of crisis, it is welcome that sense has prevailed. Any system of blood donation should be based on individual risk and not sweeping generalisations of entire communities,” Mr Murtagh said in a press release.

USI Vice-President for the Southern Region, Darren Malone has joined the call for the Republic of Ireland to get rid of the ban completely:

“The lifetime ban on gay men donating blood to the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) was lifted in January 2017 and replaced with a 12-month abstinence deferral period which means that a man who last had sex with another man more than 12 months ago is now able to donate blood if he meets the other blood donor selection criteria.

“The IBTS has set strict guidelines for those who are eligible to donate to ensure that all donations are safe to use and to protect donors and recipients. And so, eligibility decided on sexuality is extremely discriminatory and no one should be denied the right to donate blood based on their sexuality.”

In the Republic, sexual health advocates continue to work with the Irish Blood Transfusion Service on reviewing te one-year abstinence rule.

Newly released data from the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) has revealed GBT+ people were rejected from donating blood 70 times within the span of two years.

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