The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) is to introduce changes in existing deferral policies for blood donation including those that apply to men who have sex with men (MSM).
The policy changes are to be introduced following a report by an independent advisory group to the IBTS Board. The advisory group was chaired by Professor Mary Horgan.
The changes will be introduced in two phases with the initial phase introduced by the end of March 2022 and the second phase introduced later in 2022.
The initial phase will reduce the existing 12-month deferral for MSM to four months. This is an interim measure while the IBTS introduces new technology, to replace the existing paper health and lifestyle questionnaire (HLQ) with an electronic questionnaire known as the Self-Assessment Health History (SAHH). This will enable phase two, the introduction of an individual assessment process for donors, thus making blood donation more inclusive.
The deferral of any person who is taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) will also be reduced from 12 months to four months and this deferral will remain in place after the introduction of the individual assessment.
Health Minister, Stephen Donnelly said, “I am delighted to welcome this significant move by the IBTS, removing the barriers to blood donation that currently exist for men who have sex with men.”
“To be a blood donor is to give a wonderful, life-saving and life-preserving gift to a person in their time of urgent need. I look forward to working with the IBTS to implement and publicise this important step.
The Advisory Group’s membership included IBTS Donor Consultants, Infectious Disease Physicians, Public Health Physicians, an Epidemiologist, and the IBTS Risk and Resilience Manager. Stakeholders were represented by participants from the Irish Haemophilia Society, Sickle and Thalassemia Ireland and HIV Ireland.