Northern Ireland to lift ban on gay men donating blood

The NI Executive has agreed an application by Health Minister Michelle O'Neill

Northern Ireland to lift ban on gay men donating blood

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A lifetime ban on gay men donating blood in Northern Ireland is to be lifted

The new policy will come into effect on September 1st of this year. 

At present, any man who has sex with another man in Northern Ireland is banned from giving blood permanently.

Stormont's new Minister for Health Michelle O'Neill made the announcement today, saying that she would lift the ban in favour of a "one-year deferral system".

This means that gay and bisexual men can give blood one year after their last sexual contact with another man.

A similar ban was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales in 2011, but the North retained the policy.

The decision follows an Appeal Court ruling in March which confirmed that this is a devolved matter, and substantial new evidence showing that the risk of contracting HIV from donated blood is lower with a one-year deferral than with a lifetime ban.

Speaking today, the NI Health Minister said patient safety is her first responsibility, and her decision is based "solely on the evidence regarding the safety of donated blood".

The Minister went on to stress the importance of donors’ compliance with the deferral rules.

“The safety of donated blood depends on two things: donor selection and the testing of blood.

"Every blood donation is tested for HIV and a number of other organisms.

"Not even the most advanced tests are 100% reliable, so it is vitally important for every donor to comply with any deferral rules that apply to them."

She said she will now "instruct the NI Blood Transfusion Service accordingly", with the policy coming into effect in September.

In Ireland, any man who has ever had sexual contact with another man (MSM) is banned from donating blood.

A spokesperson from the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) told “The IBTS is reviewing its position. The Board will consider a report - which is informed by the International Conference on MSM held at the end of April - at its meeting later this month.“