Gay donor: ‘Tooth and nail’ battle to give blood at an end

Tomás Heneghan says IBTS donor regulations still discriminate against gay men

Tomás Heneghan outside the Irish Blood Transfusion Service clinic in D’Olier Street: “I will continue to be an active blood donor, and will continue to push and fight for further change.”

Tomás Heneghan outside the Irish Blood Transfusion Service clinic in D’Olier Street: “I will continue to be an active blood donor, and will continue to push and fight for further change.”

 

It took Tomás Heneghan 7½ minutes – or four years and a month, depending on your perspective.

Mr Heneghan (25) walked into the offices of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) blood donor clinic in Dublin’s D’Olier Street at the appointed time just after midday. He walked out after giving his 12th donation.

The 470mls he gave, the old imperial pint, took 7½ minutes to donate. “Staff, as always, were brilliant,” he tweeted afterwards.

In May 2015, Mr Heneghan was refused the opportunity to give blood at the same clinic when he disclosed that he had had sex with a man some months earlier. It was this refusal which precipitated his High Court challenge to the previous policy of a lifetime ban on sexually active gay men giving blood.

The ban was introduced after Aids emerged as a substantial health risk in the 1980s. Since then he has fought, by his own admission “tooth and nail” for the right as a gay man to give blood.

Mr Heneghan abandoned his court case after the Government announced in July that it was ending its lifetime ban in favour of one in which gay men could donate blood if they have not had sex in the previous year.

The ban was lifted as of Monday. On arrival at the clinic, he was asked a number of questions, principally the last time he had sex. He revealed he was outside the one-year timeframe and was then able to give blood for the first time since December 2012.

Civic duty

Mr Heneghan pronounced himself relieved that he was able to do something that he has been doing since he was 18. He described his donation as a “civic duty” and said changes in the law have not gone far enough.

He has described the continuing restrictions on gay men giving blood as “unnecessary, discriminatory and disproportionate” and says it is against international practice where there is individual assessment of blood donors.

As an alternative, he suggested that a blanket ban be placed on any donor who has had sex in the previous three months. This is to allow for a “window period” in which the HIV virus can be undetectable through current testing methods.

“I will continue to be an active blood donor,” Mr Heneghan said, “and will continue to push and fight for further change until such point as the policies for blood donation in Ireland reflect the most scientific and rational evidence.”