Ireland should ‘put an end to an inequality that’s no longer justified’ and update the restrictions on gay men giving blood, according to Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer.
Currently, men are only able to give blood after they have had no sexual contact with another man for 12 months.
That period is due to be reduced to four months by the end of this month.
Men who have sex with men were banned from giving blood entirely until 2017, when the 12-month deferral period was introduced.
Later this year, a new electronic questionnaire known as the Self-Assessment Health History (SAHH) will be introduced, allowing men who have sex with men to give blood without the four-month wait in some circumstances.
On Breakfast Briefing this morning, Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer said the changes need to be introduced faster.
He said Ireland is on the brink of declaring an amber alert due a critical shortage of blood supplies – and should now join the 18 other countries who have already reduced restrictions on gay men giving blood.
“At the moment, we are importing blood from the UK, which doesn’t make any sense when we have people who are willing to give blood,” he said.
“I accept that this is not a silver bullet, but it would help to increase blood supply. There are people who want to give blood but can’t.”
Senator Buttimer said the new SAHH will include questions on people’s sexual history rather than their sexual orientation.
“I appreciate there is a need for screening, there is a need for safety and patient is paramount in everything we do but the current process in Ireland is far too slow,” he said.
“It hasn’t changed quickly enough. There is a need that needs to be met that hasn’t been met.”
"No longer justified"
He noted that, just this week, France completely removed questions about sexual orientation from its blood donation eligibility questionnaire.
“There is a shortage, there is a gap, there is a lacuna,” said Senator Buttimer. “Other countries have done it around the world and it would be based on each person’s individual circumstances and that is important.
“If countries like France this week can move to change the whole policy around blood donations without what is called discriminatory conditions in the country, that is important.
“If the French can say we are putting an end to an inequality that is no longer justified, then why can’t we do that?”