The ban on gay men donating blood in Ireland was introduced in 1985 as part of a worldwide response to the emergence of HIV and AIDS.

It was announced last month that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US will move to ease its ban by allowing gay men to donate after a year of abstaining from sex.

The newly published policy paper by the Irish Blood Transfusion Service has reviewed options that would remove the discriminatory component within the current system. These options include total removal of the ban, a time deferral on donation or a continuation of the existing ban.

Tiernan Brady, policy director with GLEN (The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network) said the report represented a significant and positive development “It is 30 years since the introduction of the lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men. It was introduced at a time of international fear and lack of knowledge about AIDs and HIV. In the subsequent years science has made major advances in understanding, identifying and treating HIV and it is right that we take those scientific advances into account”

Brady continued “The priority is that there is a safe blood supply which has the confidence of the general public… The initial lifetime ban was a blanket approach which was taken at a time when there was very little knowledge about HIV and AIDS. Across the world countries are removing or modifying their policies around blood donation by gay and bisexual men in light of scientific developments and Ireland
should follow suit.”

“There can be no doubt that the blanket lifetime ban continues to stigmatise gay and bisexual men.
The report recognises that for the State to discriminate against gay men there must be grave
justification. The IBTS policy document represents the first real step in addressing this stigma” Brady