Ban on blood donations from gay or bisexual men
The Commission has raised concerns in relation to the current lifetime ban on blood donations by MSM (men who have sex with men) individuals resident in Northern Ireland.
We are aware that European Directive 2004/33/EEC, as regards technical requirements for blood and blood components, sets out the permanent deferral criteria for donors and refers to persons whose sexual behaviour puts them at high risk of acquiring severe infectious diseases that can be transmitted by blood.
We also note that, following an evidence based review in May 2011, the UK Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) recommended the lifting of the lifetime ban on blood donation by gay and bisexual men (men who have sex with men). The recommendation was accepted by health authorities in England, Scotland and Wales. The permanent exclusion of men who have had sex with men from donating blood was changed to a 12 month fixed period deferral from the latest relevant sexual contact. A large number of other countries, both EU and non-EU, however, have indefinite bans in place.
We further note that the Health Minister, Edwin Poots MLA, in a statement to the Assembly in September 2011 has indicated that the life time ban on gay men donating blood should remain in place in Northern Ireland.
We welcome the decision of the High Court that has ruled that the blood ban in Northern Ireland is ‘irrational’ following a consideration of a judicial review application from individuals seeking leave to challenge the Minister’s decision in relation to the blood ban.
We note that, with effect from June 2020, as regards blood donations from MSM individuals in Northern Ireland, there is a 3 month fixed period deferral from the latest relevant sexual contact.
The Commission is of the view that:
- a ban on blood donations from any group, including LGB individuals, must be based on clear scientific evidence and the extent and duration of the ban must be appropriate to the level of risk identified.