Northern Ireland could be finally ending its outright ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood.
The Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service (NIBTS) has, under a freedom of information request, revealed they consider it to be safe for men who have sex with en to donate after a one-year deferral period.
This would bring Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK, which asks gay and bisexual men to refrain from sex for a year before they donate blood.
A judge has ruled that former health minister Edwin Poots, who insisted an outright ban remain in place for ‘public safety’, that he cannot keep it in place. The judge called him ‘irrational’ and ‘infected with apparent bias’.
Health minister Simon Hamilton and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt are appealing the judgement in the Northern Ireland Appeal Court. They will be asking who is in charge of blood policy and whether or not this is a devolved issue.
Under the BBC investigation, the NIBTS revealed they had stopped 30 men from donating blood at their clinics after it was revealed they were gay or bisexual.
But, in despite of that, the NIBTS said they would be confident their blood is screened correctly and it would be safe for gay and bisexual men to donate after the one-year deferral period. Under emails given to the BBC, they also said they were unsure whether the outright ban was actually still in place.
‘All blood donations are subjected to the testing regimes required by the Blood Safety and Quality Regulations 2005,’ a spokesperson told the BBC.
‘As such, NIBTS is confident that all blood samples are screened correctly.’
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘It would not be appropriate at this stage to comment on matters that are before the courts.’
While Northern Ireland could be brought in line with the rest of the UK, some gay rights campaigners are calling for the rules on who can donate blood to be decided on a case-by-case basis and not on the basis of sexual orientation.
‘With one in four of us needing a blood transfusion at some point in our lives, we’re calling for the advisory body to take into account scientific advancements since the last review and the ongoing need for blood,’ Ethan Spibey, founder of Freedom To Donate, said to Gay Star News.
‘Gay men currently cannot donate blood if they have had sex in the last 12 months and FreedomToDonate passionately believe that it’s time to reconsider who can make the life saving gesture of donating blood.
‘It’s time to recognize that there are people out there who can save lives, time to acknowledge that more of us can safely donate blood, it’s time for the FreedomToDonate.’