Ireland to Ease Restrictions on Blood Donations from Gay, Bisexual Men

December 23, 2021

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) will introduce further changes to a range of deferral policies, including those relating to men who have sex with men (MSM), following a report to the IBTS Board of Directors by an independent advisory group. Currently, MSM in Ireland are deferred from blood donation for 12 months following their last sexual contact with another man.

IBTS will introduce the new deferral process in two phases. In March, IBTS will reduce the existing deferral period to 4 months. This interim measure will allow the organization time to introduce new technology and replace the existing paper health and lifestyle questionnaire (HLQ) with a digital version.

Later in 2022, IBTS will introduce individual risk assessment (IRA) for all blood donors. The individual assessment of donors’ sexual behavior will be similar to the FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualized Risk) system introduced in the United Kingdom. IBTS will also reduce the deferral period for any person taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV infection from 12 to 4 months. This deferral will remain in place following the introduction of IRA.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) regulates and establishes standards for the collection of blood, which includes blood donor eligibility. MSM are currently deferred from blood donation for 3 months following their last sexual contact with another man. However, the FDA-funded ADVANCE study is evaluating alternatives to the blood donor deferral policy for MSM.