Derry MLA Raymond McCartney has welcomed the lifting of the controversial lifetime ban on the donation of blood by men who have had sex with men and its replacement by a one-year deferral.
Sinn Féin MLA Mr McCartney, whose party colleague, Michelle O’Neill, announced the policy change in June this year, welcomed the fact that from today the north of Ireland has been brought into line with England, Scotland and Wales. “This move by the Health Minister shows Sinn Féin’s commitment to equality and we will continue to campaign for the removal of the discriminations and inequalities faced by the LGBT+ community,” said Mr McCartney.
The decision means men whose last sexual contact with another man was more than 12 months ago will be free to donate blood if they meet the other donor selection criteria.
Men who have had anal or oral sex with another man in the past 12 months, with or without a condom, will still not be eligible to donate blood.
Ms O’Neill said: “As Health Minister my first responsibility in this matter is patient safety. Surveillance data from England, Scotland and Wales and survey evidence from across the UK 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.”
The change will be implemented by the Blood Transfusion Service (NIBTS) from today and means the criteria will be in line with other groups who are deferred from giving blood for 12 months due to infection risks associated with sexual behaviours.
She continued: “Blood donors save lives every day. The need is constant. That’s why donating blood is so important. Many of us would not have loved ones with us today were it not for the selfless acts of others.
“Our blood service 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 per cent 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.”