Ending of discriminatory ban on blood donations welcomed by HIV Ireland

Press Release, 22nd December 2021

Ending of discriminatory ban on blood donations welcomed by HIV Ireland

HIV Ireland has today welcomed the announcement by Minister Stephen Donnelly TD, Minister for Health, changes to the criteria for blood donations. The changes were approved by the Board of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) following recommendations from an independent advisory group.

Changes include the reduction in the deferral period for blood donations from men who have sex with men from 12 months to four months beginning in March 2022. Subsequent changes, following the introduction of new technology and assessment procedures, will see the deferral period for men who have sex with men replaced with individualised risk-based assessments. The deferral period for people taking PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) will also be reduced from 12 months four months and maintained.

Speaking following the announcement, Chair of HIV Ireland Mr Bernard Condon said, “We are pleased that the Board of the Irish Blood Transfusion Services has agreed to the recommendations of the independent review group, and we look forward to the full implementation of the changes beginning in 2022.”

“The ending of the discriminatory deferral period and introduction of independent risk-based assessments” continued Mr Condon “are in line with the advice put forward by HIV Ireland as a member of the review group and for which we have long campaigned, including in advance of the most recent general election.”

The change to the Service’s blood donations policy was announced following the conclusion of Social Behaviours Review chaired by Prof Mary Horgan, President of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland, and infectious diseases specialist. Prof Horgan was joined on the committee by leading clinicians, specialists, and advocates from across Ireland and the UK, including HIV Ireland’s MPOWER Programme Manager Mr Adam Shanley.

Speaking following the approval of the changes, Mr Shanley said “The decision taken by the Board of the IBTS reflects its consideration of available evidence and acknowledges that a 12-month deferral policy is not appropriate policy for donor selection.”

“The expected move to individualised risk-based assessments” continued Mr Shanley, “will mean that gay and bisexual men who wish to give blood can do so knowing that they will not be precluded based solely on sexual orientation but will be subject to the same selection criteria as everyone else.”

In June 2020, HIV Ireland was invited to make a formal presentation to the Review Committee on current practices pertaining to screening for HIV and other blood borne viruses. HIV Executive Director Mr Stephen joined Mr Shanley to outline how existing policy exacerbated stigma attached to gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men and HIV.

“The review group was tasked with reviewing the evidence base for donor selection, deferral and exclusion in Ireland in relation to social behaviours that may increase the risk of acquiring specific blood-borne (HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C) and other sexually transmitted infections,” said Mr O’Hare. “The proposals as adopted will ensure both the safety of the blood supply and the welcome increase in donations from previously excluded groups,” he added. “We look forward to working with the IBTS towards the continued adoption of best practice in the criteria for blood donations and to combating stigma relating to sexual orientation and HIV.” continued Mr O’Hare.


For media enquiries please contact Stephen O’Hare, Executive Director, HIV Ireland Tel: 0857112635 Email: stephen.ohare@hivireland.ie