Blood ban: Ireland next?

The Republic of Ireland may be about to follow Great Britain and other countries by relaxing their life ban on blood donation for bisexual and gay men.

The Irish Independent newspaper reports that a decision will be made by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar following a national conference at the end of this week.

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service Board has outlined several proposals: retaining the life ban, entire repeal, reduction to a “12 month rule” similar to that in England, Wales and Scotland, or a similar reduction but to five years.

Blood donation restrictions based on sexuality date back to the 1980s and the early days of HIV / AIDS awareness, when exactly how the virus was transmitted was not clear and no viable medication had been developed.

As testing techniques have improved the argument has been made in one country after another that there is no longer the need for a blanket ban based on orientation rather than sexual behaviour. As HIV infection rates are higher among men who have sex with men the 12 month bar has been adopted in several countries in the belief it will help keep blood supplies clean.

In the UK, there is still a life ban in Northern Ireland, while in the rest of the UK the 12 month rule applies to men who have sex with men and also extends to their female partners.