Restrictions on gay men giving blood eased further in North

Men who have had one partner for more than three months to be allowed donate

Northern Ireland is introducing a system of ‘individual behavioural-based risk assessment’ around blood donation for men who have sex with men. File photograph: Zeljko Bozic/Getty Images

The North's Minister of Health Robin Swann has announced a further relaxation of the blood donation rules for gay and bisexual men in Northern Ireland.

The Minister is introducing a system of “individual behavioural-based risk assessment” that will allow some men who have sex with men (MSM) to donate blood, if they have had one sexual partner who has been their partner for more than three months.

Mr Swann said he took the decision based on expert advice from the British Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) following its consideration of a report by the Fair (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) steering group.

Mr Swann said: “I am pleased to be able to introduce this change to donor deferral policy in Northern Ireland, which means MSM in longer-term partnerships will no longer be automatically deferred from donating blood, provided they have been with the same partner for the previous three months and meet the revised medical criteria.


“I want to see more people able to donate blood. However as health minister it is my responsibility to ensure the safety of donated blood.

“I can reassure you that my decision is guided purely by the science and the advice of the experts at SaBTO, whose core remit is to minimise any health risk from blood.”

In April, the Minister announced that from June 1st, gay men would be able to make blood donations three months after their last sexual activity. Previously, the policy was that gay men could not donate blood until 12 months after their last sexual activity.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times