An openly gay man is accusing an Ireland blood bank of discrimination after doctors requested he stop donating even though he’s never had sex.
While Ireland has a lifetime ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men or intravenous drug users to protect blood supplies, 21-year-old Tomas Heneghan claims he’s never had sex with a man before and feels he should still be eligible to donate blood.
An Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) doctor sent Heneghan a letter last month requesting he come to Dublin to discuss his previous donations, The Irish Times reports.
Heneghan arrived to National Blood Centre on 25 July, where a doctor informed him an ‘anonymous query’ had been made about his sexual activity.
The doctor said she believed Heneghan when he said he had not had sexual relations, but he was nonetheless told to stop donating blood until he received written approval to continue donating.
He said of the meeting: ‘Of course it’s discrimination. It’s a slap in the face. I have been so loyal and have planned my life around donating blood. It’s very important to me. I keep myself healthy coming up to donations, eat well.’
Heneghan, who has been donating blood since he was 18, went on to say that he blames management for the situation.
“This would not happen if I was straight. I am hurt and I am angry.’
‘The meeting felt like an interrogation,’ said Heneghan, who claims he’s ‘been totally’ honest with the blood service.
A spokeswoman for IBTS was unable to comment for confidentiality reasons, but IBTS medical and scientific director Dr Ian Franklin told Gay Star News regardless of who is tested, ‘blood is of course tested for HIV, Hepatitis B, syphilis, Hepatitis C and a few other things’ before being used.
Franklin told GSN that there were two issues underpinning Heneghan’s case.
‘First, the testing isn’t perfect. There is a period of time when infection might not show on the test results. The results could come back negative but infection from HIV and other infections could still be passed on.
‘The other issue,’ said Franklin, ‘concerns the current epidemiology of sexually-transmitted infections in Ireland showing a much higher risk of HIV, up to 40%, for men who have sex with men.
‘The concern is more about future unknown infections coming through, for making sure that blood supply is safe.’
Franklin went on to say that the history with blood safety in Ireland is more sensitive than in other countries, due to a number of scandals related to Hepatitis C erupted in the 1990s.
Franklin said: ‘We’re very grateful that a huge majority of gay people don’t actually don’t try to give blood. Many don’t agree with policy… but many are still following the rules and try to change them in other ways.’