Saturday 23 November 2019

Leo favours lifting ban on gay men giving blood

Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar

Brian Byrne

THE lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men from donating blood could be lifted, according to Health Minister Leo Varadkar.

The Department of Health confirmed it has received a policy review undertaken by the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS), which operates blood donation clinics nationwide.

The IBTS is also responsible for maintaining the State's blood supply.

Mr Varadkar said he will consult with Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and patients before making a final decision on whether to overturn the ban, which has introduced in 1985.

It's expected the consultation period will last up to two months.

However, it is not known when the changes could come into effect.

If implemented, Mr Varadkar's preferred option would mean that a gay or bisexual man must abstain from having sex with another man for a period of one year before donating.

Under current restrictions, any man who has ever had sexual contact with another man is given a lifetime ban on donating blood.

The IBTS review provides three options, including maintaining the current ban, or lifting the ban entirely, which would double the risk, "although it would still be a very small risk," according to a department spokesperson.

The third option would introduce a one-year deferral period, which the spokesperson said "could be achieved without additional risk to patients, provided that compliance could be assured in some effective way".

Mr Varadkar said yesterday: "My initial impression is to favour a one-year deferral which would bring Ireland into line with many other English-speaking countries.

"But I will first get advice from the Chief Medical Officer, and hear the voices of patients, before making a final decision."

Irish Independent

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