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Northern Ireland Lifts Ban on Gay Men Donating Blood

The outdated policy was put in place in 1981

 After just eight days in the job, Northern Ireland’s health minister has that her office is lifting a ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood which has been in place since 1981.

Five years after the rest of the United Kingdom did the same, the BBC reports that the ban will take place from September 1 this year, allowing gay and bisexual men to donate blood after at least a year since their last sexual encounter with another man.

The 12-month deferral period currently stands here in Australia too.

Northern Ireland’s current policy as it stands sees a life ban imposed on any man who has had sex with another man, so while this is a step in the right direction, it still sees a significant number of healthy donors ruled out of providing much-needed blood.

“My first responsibility in this matter is patient safety. Evidence from across the UK has provided assurance that the risk is lower with a one-year deferral,” she said.

“My decision is based solely on the evidence regarding the safety of donated blood.”

In 2015 gay rights activists in Australia were calling for the Human Rights commission to review the 12-month deferral period policy.

“The ban robs the Australian public of a significant pool of potential blood donors in a time where we know that blood supplies are critically low,” Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Sean Mulcahy told The New Daily in 2015.

“For us this is a human rights issue and we believe that the ban [is] discriminatory and at odds with safe sex messages. lt also sends out an incorrect and irresponsible public health message, by suggesting that all gay sex is a health risk … while all heterosexual sex is safe.”

Another review of the policy is not expected until 2018.

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