Friday 24 May 2019

Ban on gay men giving blood to end in new year

Harris lifts 30-year restriction brought in during Aids epidemic

Decision: Simon Harris Photo: Tom Burke
Decision: Simon Harris Photo: Tom Burke
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

The ban on gay men donating blood will be finally lifted on January 16 next year.

The move will mean gay men, for the first time in a generation, will be able to donate blood after the lifting of a ban that was put in place more than 30 years ago.

Once restrictions are removed, gay men will be able to donate a year after being sexually active or five years after being cleared of a sexually transmitted disease.

Health Minister Simon Harris announced he would lift the ban, which was put in place during the 1980s, after the Irish Blood Transfusion Service  (IBTS ) recommended that gay men should be able to donate blood.

The IBTS recommendation followed a review of scientific research and practices in other countries.

The same ban was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales five years ago, and in Northern Ireland the ban was lifted last month.

The ban was put in place in Ireland during the 1980s when Aids was a major sexual health risk, especially in the gay community.

However, campaigners have argued for years that Ireland's rules on blood donations were outdated and not in line with other countries.

All blood donations are tested for HIV and other infections before they are used by medics.

The change of policy follows IBTS figures which showed there was 21pc drop in people donating blood last year.

Figures show the health service needs 3,000 donations a week as one-in-four people will need a blood transfusion during their lives.

Campaigner Tomas Heneghan dropped his High Court case against the ban after Mr Harris committed to changing the policy on gay men donating blood.

Mr Heneghan had been donating blood since he was 18, but was permanently banned when he disclosed he had sex with another man.

He argued the policy was discriminatory and a breach of European Union human rights law.

Former Health Minister Leo Varadkar said one of the reason he went public about his sexuality was because of political decisions he had to make, such as lifting the ban on gay men donating blood and laws on surrogacy.

Sunday Independent

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