Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has announced further liberalisation to the rules restricting gay and bisexual men from donating blood.
Currently, a man is ineligible to donate blood if he has had sex with another man within the past 12 months. The current proposal will see that time limit cut to four months in March and then abolished entirely later on in 2022; it will be replaced instead by individual assessment.
Minister Donnelly described it as, “A progressive move that I hope will be widely welcomed.”
Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer, who became one of Ireland’s first openly gay TDs when he came out in 2012, said Ireland was part of a worldwide trend:
“This was brought in around the world at the height of the AIDS epidemic,” Senator Buttimer told Newstalk.
“But up to today, there’s been a significant number of countries with no restrictions - last year Brazil, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, America, Australia, all amended and changed the rules.”
Following years of constructive engagement w/ @Giveblood_ie advocating for a safe & evidence-based change to blood donor criteria for gbMSM, we’ve achieved a move to individual risk-based assessment.
I was delighted to be part of the advisory group that made this recommendation. https://t.co/5O1bAIRtll
— Adam Shanley (@Adlers1) December 22, 2021
Until recently, Ireland imposed a lifelong ban on any man who had ever had sex with another man. The policy dated back to the 1980s when there were fears that HIV positive blood donors would infect hospital patients.
However, in 2017 the lifetime ban was replaced with a requirement of 12 months abstinence. At the time, then Minister for Health Simon Harris said the change was made to encourage more people to consider blood donation:
“Only 3% of the eligible population of Ireland are active blood donors – yet one in 4 people will require a blood transfusion at some time in their lives.”
In the United Kingdom, all four National Health Services now allow gay or bisexual men in monogamous relationships to donate blood at any time. The previous three month deferral for gay men was replaced with a ban on donations from any individual, regardless of gender, who has had anal sex with a new partner in the past three months.
Main image: A donor gives blood. Picture by: Bernd Wüstneck/dpa-Zentralbild/ZB.