The Health Ministry of Northern Ireland will lift a lifetime ban on blood donations from gay men starting in September this year, reports the BBC.
The ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men will come to an end in the Northern Ireland from September 1, 2016, said, Health Minister, Michelle O’Neill.
O’Neill announced the lifting of the ban during a visit to The Rainbow Project, a gay and lesbian rights advocacy organization in Belfast, her party Sinn Fein said.
‘Gay and bisexual men in Northern Ireland will be allowed to donate blood one year after their last sexual contact with another man.’
During the visit, O’Neill said that her priority was the patient safety, but there was no evidence to support the continuation of the ban. However, she appealed to men to honor the one-year moratorium on homosexual intercourse before donation which applies in other parts of Britain.
“Not even the most advanced tests are 100 percent reliable, so it is vitally important for every donor to comply with any deferral rules that apply to them,” she said. The blanket ban had been in place across the United Kingdom since 1981 in response to the AIDS crisis but in November 2011 England, Scotland and Wales agreed to permit donation provided the donor had abstained from gay sex for the previous 12 months.
The end of the ban comes just eight days after O’Neill, a member of the center-left nationalist Sinn Fein party which promised to end the controversial ban in its election manifesto, replaced hardline Democrat Unionist, Jim Wells, as health minister in the local Stormont assembly.
Wells courted controversy earlier this year when he claimed that gay parents were more likely to sexually abuse children. The previous incumbent Edwin Poots, also a prominent Democratic Unionist, a party that opposes gay rights, had mounted a legal challenge to retain the ban.
The new policy will come into effect on September 1 to give the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service time to effect the change.