GLEN has welcomed the decision of the Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, to remove the permanent ban on blood donation by gay men, following a recommendation by the board of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS).
“We welcome the decision by Minister Harris to remove the permanent ban on blood donations by gay men. The ban carried an outdated stigma for all gay and bisexual men that has persisted since the 1980s when it was first introduced”
said Brian Sheehan, Director of GLEN.
“The replacement by a one-year deferral for gay men is good progress and we would expect that this would be kept under close review on the basis of the further scientific evidence and experience from other countries, many of whom have already reduced or will reduce the deferral period further” said Sheehan.
“The one-year deferral period does however still discriminate against many gay and bisexual men because of who they are, when there is no scientific evidence to show that they should be excluded. For example, a male couple in a committed long term relationship will continue to be denied the opportunity to donate blood” continued Sheehan.
The permanent ban on blood donation was in place from the 1980’s and was implemented at time of little information on or understanding of HIV. The IBTS has long accepted that the maintenance of the ban was discriminatory towards gay and bisexual men.
Ireland now follows countries such as Australia, Britain, Canada and France who have removed the permanent ban. Many other countries do not have any ban or deferral period. Australia removed the permanent ban more than 15 years ago, and Northern Ireland is due to remove it from this September.
“We will work with the Department of Health and the IBTS to support information campaigns on the removal of the ban and continue to work with them to remove all traces of discrimination” concluded Sheehan.