A week after he was the first member of Cabinet in the Republic to publicly admit he was gay, Health Minister Leo Varadkar said he believes a 30-year ban on gay men donating blood should be lifted.
Varadkar claimed a 12-month deferral for donations for transfusion would bring Ireland into line with other countries. But he insisted he would await expert opinion before making a final decision on the issue.
He proposed a new system which would allow men who have sex with men, but who had not engaged in “risky” sexual activity for the preceding year, to donate blood.
The original ban on blood donations from gay men was imposed in the mid-1980s when AIDS hysteria was at its peak.
The ban has been the subject of controversy for three decades. The Irish Blood Transfusion Service recently put three options to the Health Department -- a removal of the ban, keeping it in place, or introducing a deferral period of 12 months before donations.
“My initial impression is to favor a one-year deferral which would bring Ireland into line with many other English-speaking countries, but I will first get advice from the chief medical officer, and hear the voices of patients, before making a final decision,” Varadkar said.
The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) welcomed the decision from the minister. “There is no doubt that the ban was discriminating and stigmatizing and, 30 years since it was introduced, the situation has moved on and so should the ban move on as well,” a spokesperson said.
When the 36-year-old minister admitted he was gay, he said he had decided to speak publicly about his sexuality as he would be campaigning in support of same-sex marriage in the forthcoming referendum in May and he did not want people to think he had a “hidden agenda.”