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The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) and the Department of Health are working to finalise plans for the introduction of the implementation of the amended deferral policy for MSM.
This work includes collaboration between the IBTS, the Department and another agency, to be identified, to conduct a mixed methods study (quantitative and qualitative) to assess donor attitudes, motivation and understanding of deferral criteria and development by the IBTS of a communications plan.
The removal of the permanent ban on donation by MSM in favour of a deferral period of one year following the last sexual encounter with a man, and a five-year deferral on all donors who had an STI, will be implemented by the end of January 2017.
Some members of the IBTS Medical Advisory Committee (MAC) did not believe a standalone, one-year deferral policy on donation by MSM adequately covered the “threat of emerging infections”, revealed the board’s meeting minutes from June.
Subsequently, it was agreed that all donors who had an STI would be deferred from donating for a period of five years from that infection. Current deferral periods vary, depending on the STI concerned.
“The MAC believe that the HIV risk is covered by a one-year deferral but a number of MAC members do not believe that the threat from emerging infections would be adequately covered by a one-year deferral,” stated the minutes.
“The MAC agreed that a lifetime deferral was disproportionate and no longer acceptable. Therefore, the issue at stake was what period would be deemed appropriate to deal with emerging infections. There were many views on this and what cohort of the population presented the greatest risk. Following an evaluation of the issues involved, it was agreed that the appropriate response to dealing with emerging infections was that all donors who have had an STI will be deferred from donating for a period of five years from that infection.”
An IBTS spokesperson told the Medical Independent: “The board decided that in order to provide some protection against an emerging infection a deferral of any donor who had a confirmed STI in the previous five years would be a desirable step. This measure would be reviewed at the end of the first year. Because we do not know the nature of an emerging infection or the route of transmission it was felt that this step would be appropriate if that infection was to be sexually transmitted.”
Meanwhile, recruitment of a new IBTS Medical and Scientific Director is ongoing with an Acting Director in place.