Rules on blood donation for gay people

 

Sir, – Wednesday was World Aids day, 40 years after the HIV virus was first discovered as the etiologic cause of Aids.

In Ireland, the lifelong ban on gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men giving blood (a ban which was first introduced in countries after 1981) was lifted in 2017. In effect, this meant that gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men could qualify as blood donors – but only after abstaining from any sexual contact for one year. The same criteria does not apply to heterosexual donors.

In the UK in June of this year, a new policy was implemented allowing gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men to give blood – without any period of abstaining. The UK thus became one of 25 countries with no deferral period.

Two weeks after the law in the UK changed, the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS), because of a current shortage of blood, announced it was importing a bulk consignment of blood from the UK.

This imported blood came to the aid of an Irish health service affected not only by shortening blood supplies, but by the vagaries of another fatal virus. It also, presumably, came from British men who were able to give blood unrestrictedly because of the change in the law.

As a gay citizen of this country, I believe the current approach to blood donation prejudicial, that an evidence-based, individualised assessment of sexual behavioural patterns replace what is an outmoded grouping together of communities based upon the presumption of sexual promiscuity.

Given the very real possibility of further blood shortages both now and in the future, I call upon the Government to reassess the current abstention clause immediately.

--Yours, etc,

Dr ADRIAN GOODWIN

Clarke’s Bridge, Cork