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Reilly Rules Out Lifting Ban on Gay Men Giving Blood

Health Briefing Irish Times, 12 July 2011

MINISTER FOR Health James Reilly has ruled out any immediate change to the rule which bans gay men from donating blood.

Dr Reilly said the exclusion of men who have or had sex with other men (MSM) from donation was not based on the risks associated with HIV but on “other blood-borne agents” associated with MSM behaviour.

He said MSM continued to be over-represented among donors who test positive for blood-borne infections.

“While there has been a reduction in the number of new cases of HIV, there is a continued rise in the number of new HIV cases among MSM, who are now the majority of new cases of HIV infection in Ireland,” Dr Reilly told Labour deputy Anne Ferris in a recent Dáil reply. “New cases of HIV infection among MSM have doubled since 2005.”

In common with many other countries, Ireland has put in place prohibitions on the giving of blood by sexually active gay men. In the US, gay men who have had sex with another man since 1977 are not permitted to give blood. In the UK, sexually active gay men are not permitted to give blood either, although the policy there is currently under review.

Some countries though are beginning to review their blanket ban on sexually active gay men giving blood, with New Zealand, for example, deciding to impose only a 10-year restriction.

The Irish advocacy group LGBT Noise is lobbying for similar changes to the eligibility criteria in Ireland. It claims that prohibiting sexually active gay men stigmatises one group of society.