Words: Eva O’Beirne
The Irish Blood Transfusion Service has announced that the blood donation deferral for gay and bisexual men will be removed by the end of 2022.
From March 2022, men who have sex with men (MSM) will be permitted to give blood four months after their last sexual contact with a man. Under the current system, they cannot donate blood for a year after their last sexual interaction.
The news comes comes a day after it was announced Ireland would need to import blood from the UK for the second time this year. Over 400 units of blood were imported from the UK due to blood donor appointments being cancelled by complications caused by Storm Barra.
The deferral policy was first introduced in the 1980s at the height of the AIDS epidemic, initially as a lifetime blood donation ban for any man who had ever had sex with another man. This was changed to a one year deferral in 2017.
The new four month waiting time will be used to implement “new technology” to allow for the development of an electronic questionnaire known as the “self-assessment health history”. This system will rely on an individual assessment process for donors, thus making blood donation more inclusive.
The IBTS has asserted that the deferral for those taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a HIV prevention drug, will also be reduced from 12 months to four months but this deferral will remain in place after the introduction of the individual assessment.
The IBTS discrimination against MSM donating blood was heavily criticised as it arguably reinforced homophobic ideology of HIV and AIDS being “gay” diseases. Pink News reported this year that 30 per cent of new HIV transmissions in Ireland in 2018 were through heterosexual sex, proving it is a universal issue.
The IBTS has faced two major blood shortages this year, with as little as 2 day supplies of certain blood types remaining. To find out where you can donate blood, click here.
Elsewhere on District: Dublin Bus cancels Nitelink bus services indefinitely from Thursday