Just a few weeks into new post as Health Minister, Michelle O’Neill has taken the decision to lift the ban on blood donations by men who have had sex with other men (MSM).
The decision follows an Appeal Court ruling in March, which confirmed that this was a devolved matter, and that substantial new evidence had shown that the risk of contracting HIV from donated blood is lower with a one-year deferral than with a lifetime ban.
‘My first responsibility in this matter is patient safety,’ the Minister said. ‘Evidence from across the UK has provided assurance that the risk is lower with a one-year deferral. My decision is based solely on evidence regarding the safety of donated blood.’
Michelle went on to stress the importance of doctor’s compliance with the deferral rules.
‘The safety of donated blood depends on two things: donor selection and the testing of blood. Every blood donation is tested for HIV and a number of other organisms. Not even the most advanced tests are 100 per cent reliable, so it is vitally important for every donor to comply with any deferral rules that apply to them. I will instruct the NI Blood Transfusion Service (NIBTS) accordingly. To allow NIBTS adequate preparation time, the new policy will come into effect on 1 September 2016.’