As of this week, gay men in Ireland will now be allowed to donate blood, after previously being subjected to a lifelong ban. However, they will only able to donate provided they haven’t had sex in the past 12 months—even if it was using a condom or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) held a conference in 2016 and after reviewing data from countries that had changed their deferral criteria, concluded that a “one year deferral is as effective as a lifetime deferral from the point of view of protecting the blood supply against the risk of HIV transmission”.
Ireland’s Health Minister Simon Harris said that the IBTS will “continue to keep all deferral policies under active review in the light of scientific evidence, emerging infections and international experience.”
The Australian Red Cross Blood Service also has a policy of deferring donations from men who have had sex with men in the last 12 months, although an independent review found that this period could safely be reduced to six months.
Aside from lifting the lifelong ban, the IBTS also announced stricter guidelines for people who have previously contracted sexually transmitted infections. They can only donate blood five years after completing treatment.