Despite still battling the DUP to get same-sex marriage pushed through in Northern Ireland, the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood will be lifted on Thursday.
However, there is a a caveat, and it is exactly like the one currently in place in the UK, in that gay or bisexual men must not have had sex for a year to donate blood. They of course must also match the usual donor criteria.
This change was announced some time ago, back in June, but it is only being brought into practice this week.
Michelle O’Neill, who announced the change, : “As health minister my first responsibility in this matter is patient safety. Surveillance data from England, Scotland and Wales and survey evidence from across Britain and the north of Ireland have provided assurance that the risk is lower with a one-year deferral. My decision is based on the evidence regarding the safety of donated blood.”
She continued in saying that the blood donation service in Northern Ireland is “carefully managed to maintain a safe and sufficient supply of blood for transfusions. The safety of donated blood depends on two things: donor selection and the testing of blood.”
“Every blood donation is tested for HIV and a number of other organisms. Not even the most advanced tests are 100% reliable, so it is vitally important that every donor complies with all the donor selection rules. These rules are in place to protect the health of donors and of patients who receive blood transfusions.”
While the one year deferral that will be implemented is a massive step forward from an all out ban, many would still argue that this measure is draconian considering the blanket testing for HIV and the better implementation of sexual health among the LGBT community.