Press Release: Blood Donor Criteria for Gay and Bisexual Men moving in the right direction but more work is needed, says HIV Ireland
28th March 2022
HIV Ireland has today welcomed the implementation of planned changes to the criteria for blood donations by the Irish Blood Transfusion Service. The organisation, which served as a member of the Social Behaviours Review Committee chaired by prof Mary Horgan, specialist in infectious diseases, has argued that the applicable criteria for donations should dispense with blanket deferral periods aimed at specific cohorts of the population, e.g. gay and bisexual men, in favour of individualised risk based assessments.
Stephen O’Hare, Executive Director at HIV Ireland said: “As a result of the changes being implemented today more gay and bisexual men will be able to safely donate blood four months after last sexual contact. This is a significant reduction in the previous deferral period, down from 12 months, and is in line with the recommendation towards the adoption of an individualised risk-based approach as recommended by the Review Group. These changes bring Ireland more in line with practices in neighbouring jurisdictions,” he said.
Speaking following the announcement, Adam Shanley, MPOWER Programme Manager at HIV Ireland who served on the Review Group, expressed disappointment that some aspects of the Review Groups recommendations had yet to be implemented.
“Despite a move in the right direction” said Mr Shanley, “we are disappointed to learn that the IBTS decided not to implement a recommendation to remove oral sex as a reason for deferring gbMSM, as agreed by the Review Group.” “Medical evidence supports the finding that oral sex carries virtually no risk for HIV transmission” continued Mr Shanley, “and was correctly considered an unnecessary barrier for gay and bisexual men to donate blood. With a backdrop of dwindling blood supply in Ireland, it is of the utmost importance that current scientific advice is followed so that more people can donate safely to meet demand,” he said.
Commenting on the ongoing changes to the criteria being implemented by the IBTS, Mr Shanley added, “Today’s change is only a first step in achieving a more inclusive approach. We now want to see work commence on the introduction of individualised risk assessment which the IBTS has agreed to implement by the end of 2022. This will create a fairer system which will ensure donors, regardless of their sexuality, are being asked questions that successfully identify higher risk.”
For media enquiries please contact Stephen O’Hare, Executive Director, HIV Ireland Tel: 085 711 2635 email: stephen.ohare@hivIreland.ie