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Gay blood donation rules relaxed in Northern Ireland

Regulations will finally be brought in line with the rest of the UK.

2020-04-29

Rules around gay and bisexual blood donation in Northern Ireland are set to be brought in line with the rest of the UK.

From June 1, gay and bisexual men will soon be able to donate blood after abstaining from sex for three months - rather than the previous 12 - the BBC reports.

The change comes three years after the limit was reduced from 12 to three months in the rest of the UK.

Plans had original been made to bring down the limit in Northern Ireland in 2017, but were put on hold after the power-sharing agreement at Stormont broke down, leaving Northern Ireland without a function government until the assembly was reconvened earlier this year.

Northern Ireland's health minister said on Wednesday(29 April) the decision was based on "evidence regarding the safety of donated blood".

Robin Swann said: "Any one of us may require a blood transfusion in the future and we need to be confident that the blood we receive is safe."

LGBT support group The Rainbow Project welcomed the news, saying: "No longer can LGBT people in Northern Ireland be expected to endure lesser treatment than our counterparts in other regions."

A lifetime ban on blood dontation for men who have sex with men (MSM) was introduced in the UK in the 1980s at the height of the Aids crisis. It was a replaced with a 12-month abstinence policy in Great Britain in 2011, and in Northern Ireland in 2016.

2020 has already seen Northern Ireland's marriage equality laws brought in line with the rest of the UK, having previously been blocked by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).