Northern Ireland news

Robin Swann announces end of controversial 'gay blood ban'

Stevie Maginn make history with what is thought to be the first blood donation since the relaxation of Northern Ireland's controversial gay blood restrictions in April. Picture by Hugh Russell.

BLOOD donation rules have been changed to allow gay and bisexual men who have had the same partner for the previous three months to become donors.

It follows years of campaigning against Northern Ireland's controversial `gay blood ban'.

Health Minsiter Robin Swann said he is pleased to be able to announce the decision which he stressed is based on expert advice from the advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) and was "guided purely by science".

"SaBTO have provided an assurance that regular monitoring of residual risk of blood-borne infections will continue as normal to ensure that there is no impact on the safe supply of blood to patients."

In April the `deferral period' for the group was changed to three months since their last sexual activity.

The new protocol is expected to take be in place from next summer.

Chief Executive of the NI Blood Transfusion Service Karin Jackson said new questions on the Donor Health Check "will help us to identify lower risk MSM who are eligible to give the gift of blood".

John O'Doherty of The Rainbow Project described the announcement as "incredibly significant and welcome", describing giving blood as "a public duty".

"We encourage everyone who is able to donate blood."

Alliance assembly member Andrew Muir said the "welcome move focused rightly upon science, evidence and individual assessment of risk as another step towards ensuring LGBT people treated as full equal citizens".

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