Lifting of ban on blood donations by gay men to be considered at Dublin conference

The conference will hear the opinions of those affected, before the Health Minster makes an official decision

blood, donations, conference, considered, health, minister

File photo of blood donation. Image: Cathal McNaughton / PA Archive/Press Association Images

There is speculation the Irish Blood Transfusion Service Board may recommend lifting the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood when they meet later today.

The board is hosting a two-day conference, which starts this morning, where participants will hear the opinions of those affected.

In July of last year, a 23-year-old student from Castlegar in Galway began a High Court challenge, after he was banned from donating blood in Ireland.

The decision not to take Tomás Heneghan's blood last May came after he disclosed having a sexual encounter with another man six months earlier.

Mr Heneghan said he had undergone various tests after having had sex, all of which proved negative.

His lawyers said that refusing to take his blood was discriminatory, disproportionate and contrary to EU law.

While many European countries have relaxed their bans, few have lifted the ban outright.

The ban was introduced to reduce the risk of HIV transmission from blood transfusion in the mid-1980s.

A similar lifetime ban in the UK was reduced to one year in 2011.

Last year, the European Court of Justice found that a lifetime ban on gay men giving blood donations may be justified in limited circumstances.

The court ruled that the blanket ban is not a proportionate response if there are other methods of ensuring a high-level of health protection for the recipients of blood products.

Reports say a recommendation to remove the lifetime ban here is expected.

Top level experts are in Dublin today to discuss the most recent medical and scientific evidence, and look at whether it is time to change the current rules.

The final decision will be taken by the health minister.