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New blood donor deferral policy for MSM now in place

Today also sees the introduction of an additional deferral from blood donation of people with a history of specific notifiable sexually transmitted infections. This will be in effect for five years from completion of treatment of that infection.

Commenting on the changes, Minister for Health Simon Harris said: “The IBTS provides a safe, reliable and robust blood service to the Irish health system and has the necessary programmes and procedures in place to protect both donors and recipients of blood and blood products. Furthermore, the IBTS will continue to keep all deferral policies under active review in the light of scientific evidence, emerging infections and international experience.”

This change in deferral policy relating to MSM follows detailed consideration of the issues involved over the past two years. This process included the hosting by the IBTS of an international symposium in April 2016, where experts from seven countries who had either changed or were in the process of changing their deferral policy from a lifetime ban for MSM as blood donors, presented their respective stances, research and the rationale behind their decisions.

The change to a one-year deferral for MSM is supported by the most current scientific evidence available and brings Ireland in line with similar policies in the UK, Canada and elsewhere.

Minister Harris highlighted the importance of donating blood, and urged all those eligible to consider donation. “Only 3 per cent of the eligible population of Ireland are active blood donors – yet one-in-four people will require a blood transfusion at some time in their lives.”

Minister Harris concluded: “In June of last year, I accepted the recommendations of the IBTS to change their blood donation deferral policies for men who have sex with men, as well as for donors who have had a sexually transmitted infection. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the IBTS for their work over the past six months which today sees these recommendations brought to fruition within the timescale agreed.”

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