Blood Transfusion Service finally lifts ban on gay men donating blood

Tomás Heneghan became one of the first gay men in the country to donate blood after the Irish Blood Transfusion (IBTS) service lifted a lifetime ban for men who have sex with men.

The rule change means that men whose last sexual contact with another man was more than 12 months ago will be eligible to donate if he meets the other donor selection criteria.

Tomás, 25, from Castlegar, Co Galway, was a student when he took a High Court action over the donation ban in July 2015. He dropped his legal challenge a year later when the changes he had sought were announced.

Tomás, who began donating blood shortly after turning 18 in 2010, made his 11th donation yesterday at the IBTS blood donor clinic in D’Olier Street, Dublin.

He last gave blood in December 2012 and had argued in court that the permanent deferral on lood donation imposed on him was discriminatory, disproportionate and contrary to EU law.

“I found myself in the High Court as a 23-year-old student, fighting the State simply to be able to perform my civic duty and engage in this extremely important act to help improve and save lives.,” he said.

The lifetime ban for men who have sex with men was imposed by the IBTS when HIV emerged in the 1980s and the blood bank decided to lift the ban when other countries changed their deferral criteria.

Tomás said yesterday was a “big day” for him — he wanted to continue being an active blood donor but had to go to the High Court to fight to win that right.

Health Minister Simon Harris welcomed the lifting of the lifetime ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men.

The relaxation of donation policies for men who have sex with men followed a two-year consideration by the IBTS and was approved by the minister last June.

“The change to a one-year deferral for men who have sex with men in supported by the most current scientific evidence available and brings Ireland into line with similar policies in the UK, Canada and elsewhere,” said Mr Harris.

The minister also welcomed the introduction of an additional deferral from blood donation of those with a history of specific notifiable sexually transmitted infections for five years from completion of treatment.

Mr Harris said the IBTS would continue to keep all deferral policies under ongoing review in the light of scientific evidence, emerging infections and international experience.

Only 3% of the eligible population are active donors.



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