Rules on gay blood donations relaxed in Northern Ireland

Health Minister says new policy will allow more people to give blood

Blood donation: The Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service advised that donors should keep in mind public health advice around coronavirus, including not attending appointments if they or a member of their household are feeling unwell.  Photograph: Carlos Lemos/EPA

Blood donation: The Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service advised that donors should keep in mind public health advice around coronavirus, including not attending appointments if they or a member of their household are feeling unwell. Photograph: Carlos Lemos/EPA

 

Northern Ireland’s Minister of Health Robin Swann has announced a relaxation in rules governing blood donation for gay men.

From June 1st, gay men will be able to make blood donations three months after their last sexual activity, he announced on Wednesday.

Hitherto, the policy was that gay men could not donate blood until 12 months after their last sexual activity.

“Having considered the expert advice and evidence provided by the Committee for the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs, the deferral period for these people will now be reduced to three months,” said Mr Swann.

The Minister said the rule change would maintain the safety of the blood supply while allowing more people to donate.

Safety of utmost importance

“Any one of us may require a blood transfusion in the future and we need to be confident that the blood we receive is safe. As Minister for Health it is of utmost importance to me that we maintain the safety of blood and I’m confident that the new policy that I am announcing today will do that,” he said.

“My decision is based solely on the evidence regarding the safety of donated blood,” added Mr Swann.

The Minister stressed the importance of donors complying with the deferral rules. He said: “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 for every donor to comply with any deferral rules that apply to them.”

The Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service, in welcoming the changes, said the “safety of our donors and staff, as always, is our utmost priority”.

The service advised that donors should keep in mind the public health advice around coronavirus, including not attending appointments if they or a member of their household are feeling unwell.