Ireland lags behind on gay blood ban

Researcher James Larkin writes in The Journal about the discriminatory treatment of gay people in Ireland who wish to donate blood.

Twenty four years after homosexuality was decriminalised [in the Irish Republic], the lifetime ban on men who have had sex with men donating blood was lifted.

It was replaced by a one year ’deferral’ so that if a man has had protected or unprotected anal or oral sex with another man in the last year then they cannot give blood.

One discriminatory rule is replaced by another discriminatory rule under the pretext of safety and practicality…..

It is not men having sex with men that should be of concern to the Irish Blood Transfusion Service, but risky sexual behaviour.

It is a very good article, but I am not sure that monitoring sexual behaviour and educating society is within the remit of a blood transfusion service. Surely the onus is on all of us to help all the people we know or serve understand the risks and behave sensibly so that they can enjoy their sexuality and the rest of their life without putting themselves in danger.


Blood ban overturned in Israel

The outright ban on gay men donating blood has been completely overturned in Israel, possibly the first country to do so.

The Times of Israel reports:

Gay and bisexual men in Israel will be allowed to donate blood through Magen David Adom in the same way as other blood donors, after the emergency service on Wednesday announced a “double testing” system that screens blood twice.

Last year, the Health Ministry announced that gay men could donate blood, but only if 12 months had passed since their last sexual encounter.

The health service will test the blood once at donation and test it a second time before infusion. The blood will be frozen for four months in a special freezer.

Israel’s Health Ministry has accepted the double-test procedure on a two-year trial basis, which means gay and bisexual men in Israel will no longer need to wait between having a sexual encounter and donating blood.

“The constant refusal to receive blood donations from male members of the LGBT community, and their requirement to lie, was an insult, but it has come to an end,” said Chen Ariely, chairperson of the Aguda-LGBTQ Taskforce.

Gay blood ban relaxed in Wales

Wales is to follow England and Scotland in relaxing blood donation rules for gay and bisexual men and sex workers. As in England and Scotland, sex workers were previously not allowed to donate blood at all.

From early next year men who have sex with men will be able to give blood in Wales three months after their last sexual activity.

Currently gay and bisexual men have to abstain from sex for 12 months before they can give blood.

The Welsh Government is looking at more personalised risk assessments.

Gay blood ban relaxed again

Gay men in England will be allowed to donate blood three months after having sex instead of a year. Medical advances mean the time limit will be reduced again in England and Scotland.

The limit has been one year since it was readjusted in 2011.

Sex workers were barred from donating, but they now will be able to, subject to the same three-month rule.

The Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs – which advises UK health departments – recommended the changes after concluding that new testing systems were accurate and donors were good at complying with the rules.

Prof. James Neuberger, from the advisory committee, said: “Technologies to pick up the presence of the virus have greatly improved, so we can now pick up viruses at a much earlier stage in the infection, and therefore it’s much easier to tell if a blood donor has the virus.”

The new limits will take effect at blood donation centres in Scotland in November, and in early 2018 in England.

The changes mean that men who have sex with other men, people who have sex with high-risk partners – for example, those who have been in areas where HIV is common, and commercial sex workers will be able to donate blood after abstaining from sex for three months.

The rules around people who have undergone acupuncture, piercing, tattooing and endoscopies, and for those with a history of non-prescribed injecting drug use, are now being reviewed, but those are European rules and are subject to EU legislation.

Another nail in the blood ban’s coffin


BBC | 17084

The Government’s advisory committee is about to make it considerably easier for gay men to donate blood in a dramatic winding down of the ban implemented amid the 1980s Aids epidemic.

The committee is reported to have decided that the current deferral period, in which men cannot give blood within 12 months of having sex with another man, should be reduced to three months.

The change reflects improved testing measures which can establish whether someone has HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C or syphilis inside three months.

The move to reduce the deferral period is supported by a working group of the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs. An official report will be passed to the full committee, which will then give its recommendation to the Department of Health in July.

The ban has been in place since 1983 – 34 years.

The 2015 UK Blood Donor Survey of 65,051 people found one per cent lie about their circumstances on their forms. Seventy-four men who have sex with men, out of 22,065, said they had been dishonest to the blood service.

The NHS Blood and Transplant Service says it needs 200,000 blood donors every year.

Irish Republic ditches its lifetime ban

The lifetime ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men in the Irish Republic has been lifted.

From today (January 16) a man who last had sex with another man more than one year ago will now be allowed to donate, as long as he meets the other blood donor selection criteria.

Any man who has had sex with another man within the last 12 months will still be prohibited from donating.