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07 Jul 2022

Kildare Senator urges health service to drop 'blood ban' for male LGBT+ blood donors

A Kildare Senator has written an op-ed piece for The Irish Sun calling on the health service to ease restrictions for gay and bisexual men who wish to donate blood.

Under current Irish law, gay and bisexual men who have sex with men (gbMSM) must abstain from any sexual contact (regardless of the use of condoms and/or PrEP) for a minimum of 12 months before meeting the criteria for donating blood. 

The same criteria does not apply to heterosexual blood donors.

Fiona O' Loughlin, a member of Fianna Fáil, said in her piece that if it is safe for gay men in the UK to donate blood, then it is also safe in Ireland.

She made reference to how a recent rule change in the blood donation criteria for gay and bisexual men in Northern Ireland came into effect in Northern Ireland last month.

Senator O' Loughlin also made reference to the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) importing a large consignment of blood from the UK for the first time since the 1990’s in June of last year. 

It has been speculated that it is likely that some of this blood is made up donations from gay and bisexual men in the UK.

The new rules allow for men who have been in a same-sex relationship with one partner for more than three months are now able to donate, thus increasing the number of eligible blood donors.

In her op-ed piece, Senator O' Loughlin said: "To date, in Ireland we continue to exercise blatant inequality, despite the urgent need for blood donations."

"It is not acceptable that we are discriminating against one section of society in Ireland, and time accepting blood from that same community in the UK."

She added that each individual donor should be assessed for their individual risk, regardless of their sexual orientation, and that given the current blood shortage in Ireland, such an amendment would be of the utmost importance.

According to the IBTS, this shortage came about as a result of the pandemic, and earlier this year, it revealed that it currently undertaking a social behaviours review at its existing deferral practice across a number of areas, including MSM (men who have sex with men) donation.

Senator O'Loughlin has been public in her support for allowing gay and bisexual men to donate blood on her social media profiles.

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