Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has announced that from today Monday) the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) has introduced a change to the blood donor deferral policy. This change will see the lifting of the lifetime ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men (MSM). A man who last had sex with another man more than 12 months ago will now be able to donate blood if he meets the other blood donor selection criteria.
Minister Harris also welcomed today’s introduction of an additional deferral from blood donation of those with a history of specific notifiable sexually transmitted infections for five years from completion of treatment of that infection.
Minister Harris said, “The IBTS provides a safe, reliable and robust blood service to the Irish health system and has the necessary programmes and procedures in place to protect both donors and recipients of blood and blood products. Furthermore, the IBTS will continue to keep all deferral policies under active review in the light of scientific evidence, emerging infections and international experience.”
This change in deferral policy relating to MSM follows detailed consideration of the issues involved over the past two years. This process included the hosting, by the IBTS, of an international symposium in April 2016, where experts from seven countries who had either changed, or were in the process of changing, their deferral policy from a lifetime ban for MSM as blood donors, presented their respective stances, research and the rationale behind their decisions.
The change to a one-year deferral for MSM is supported by the most current scientific evidence available and brings Ireland into line with similar policies in the UK, Canada and elsewhere.
The Minister highlighted the importance of donating blood, and urged all those eligible to consider donation, saying, “Only 3% of the eligible population of Ireland are active blood donors – yet 1 in 4 people will require a blood transfusion at some time in their lives.”