Minister announces phased changes to blood donation rules for gay men

Minister announces phased changes to blood donation rules for gay men

More than 400 units of blood are being imported into Ireland this week in response to a shortage in supply.

Wed, 22 Dec, 2021 – 12:53

Paul Hosford, Political Correspondent

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has announced a gradual change to rules around blood donations by gay men.

Since 2017, the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) has had a one-year deferral for men who have sex with other men in order for them to donate blood.

Mr Donnelly said that policy would change in two phases from March.

He tweeted: “We are introducing changes to our deferral policy for blood donations from men who have sex with men (MSM). The changes will be introduced in two phases with the initial phase being introduced by the end of March 2022 and the second phase being introduced later in 2022.

“The initial phase will reduce the existing 12-month deferral for MSM to four months. This is an interim measure while the Irish Blood Transfusion Service introduces new technology, to replace the existing paper health and lifestyle questionnaire (HLQ).

“This is an important step and follows a report to the Irish Blood Transfusion Service Board by an independent advisory group chaired by Professor Mary Horgan. A progressive move that I hope will be widely welcomed.”

Minister @DonnellyStephen has endorsed the lifting of the one-year deferral policy on gay and bisexual men donating blood.@Fiona_Kildare has been campaigning for this to be lifted and explains here what changes to our deferral policy for blood donations this will bring 🩸 pic.twitter.com/gSuKTnL0YT

— Fianna Fáil (@fiannafailparty) December 22, 2021

More than 400 units of blood are being imported into Ireland this week in response to a shortage in supply. This marks the second time in 2021 that the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) has imported blood from the UK’s NHS Blood and Transplant unit. Gay men can donate blood in the UK.

The IBTS said this week that it is in urgent need of blood donations to see it through Christmas and beyond, with Storm Barra costing the service around 300 donations in recent weeks.

The surge in Covid-19 cases has also affected blood donation appointments, with more blood being issued to hospitals than being collected.

Only 3% of the population are blood donors and approximately 9% of these are O negative, and the IBTS needs to collect 3,000 units of blood every week to maintain the national blood supply.

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