Revised Donor Eligibility Process Takes Effect in Northern Ireland

August 20, 2021

The Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service (NIBTS) began assessing donor eligibility on a person-by-person basis on Aug. 16. The new process will allow more men who have sex with men (MSM) to donate blood. The changes follow the adoption of the new donor eligibility process in other parts of the United Kingdom, which began in June

Under the new donor eligibility process, all donors will complete the same donor health check prior to donation. Potential donors will no longer be asked to declare if they have had sex with another man. Instead, updated donor deferral criteria will focus on identifying a wider range of behaviors that will apply to all donors, regardless of sexuality.

In the United States, the ADVANCE Study (Assessing Donor Variability And New Concepts in Eligibility) is a Food and Drug Administration-funded research collaboration between Vitalant, OneBlood and the American Red Cross designed to evaluate alternatives to the FDA’s current 3-month blood donor deferral policy for MSM. It is the first step in determining whether individual risk assessment can be used to effectively evaluate donor risk to support eligibility and deferral decisions at blood centers while maintaining the safety of the blood supply.