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Ireland: Government to consider relaxing gay blood ban

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The Irish Department of Health is currently examining a policy paper that looks at a range of options surrounding the country’s ban on gay men donating blood.

Under the current system in the Republic of Ireland, men who have sex with men (MSM) are permanently banned from donating blood.

However, the Irish Blood Transfusion Service has compiled a policy paper that recommends changes to the system to remove the discriminatory component – and the Department of Health is now reviewing proposals.

One of the proposals includes a move to a deferral-based system, as is used in England, Wales and Scotland, where men can donate if they abstain from sex for a year.

According to RTE, the report condemns the existing ban, noting it “causes considerable offence to some in society. It is seen to stigmatise a group who are emerging from many centuries of official ignorance.”

However, the report adds: “It is generally considered reasonable to curtail some activities of some individuals where matters of public safety are involved.”

Tiernan Brady of GLEN said: “[The ban was] introduced at a time of international fear and lack of knowledge about AIDS and HIV.

“In the subsequent years science has made major advances in understanding, identifying and treating HIV and it is right that we take those scientific advances into account.

“The priority is that there is a safe blood supply which has the confidence of the general public. An essential part of that is keeping up to date with the scientific developments.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health confirmed the policy paper was currently being considered, but added “it will take time” before any decision is made on this issue.

Northern Ireland currently also maintains a permanent ban on MSM blood donation, despite recommendations.

A judge ruled this week that former NI Health Minister Edwin Poots’ decision to uphold a ban on gay men giving blood was the result of religious bias.


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