Ireland’s lifetime ban on gay blood donations could be scrapped

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Ireland is set to review its lifetime ban on gay men donating blood.

At present, the Republic of Ireland continues to enforce rules introduced at the height of the AIDS crisis, which stipulate that men who have sex with men (MSM) are banned for life from giving blood.

A number of countries have relaxed or altered the regulations in recent years to reflect modern screening technology.

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service Board is set to review changes to the law this month, and according to the Irish Independent, a decision is expected shortly after the April 21-22 conference at the Royal College of Surgeons.

The final decision on the issue will be taken by health minister Leo Varadkar – who is openly gay.
Ireland’s lifetime ban on gay blood donations could be scrapped
He said previously: “There are decisions coming up that are not entirely my own, but I will be involved in them. We’ve legislation coming forward this year about whether or not we lift the ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood.

“I want people to know that whatever decisions are made on any issue, I’ll make them according to what I believe is public interest. I won’t be allowing my own background or sexual orientation to dictate the decisions that I make.”

If Ireland does opt to relax its permanent ban, it will put greater focus on the issue in Northern Ireland.

England, Wales and Scotland currently operate a 12-month deferral system for gay men who want to donate blood – but successive Northern Irish health ministers have maintained a lifetime ban.


The health brief in Northern Ireland is held by the DUP – with the previous health minister Jim Wells making openly homophobic comments and describing Pride as “repugnant”.