Sean Cassidy Dublin 0

Minister for Health and IBTS Board, Repeal the MSM Blood Ban!

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As citizens of this state we believe that the Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM) Blood donation ban represents an egregious affront to a large proportion of an already marginalized group within our society. While we do note that it is necessary to always reduce the risk of tainting the blood supply, we believe the narrative that the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) presents is both inadequate in light of a changing of international norms in relation to this issue, and in the context that there is an effective double standard applied on the basis of sexual orientation which is presented as being applied on the basis sexual practise.

The MSM Blood ban is the only area within the IBTS safety guidelines that deals with sexual practise. We recognise the occurrence of HIV/AIDS is higher per capita amongst Gay, Bisexual and Trans males compared to the general population. (Although we do note that this community is also more likely to take part in more regular screening).The absence of any standards applied on heterosexual sexual practise including the absence of any standards applied to unprotected sex, is a telling factor when taken into the context of the MSM Blood donation ban.

In the last twenty years a number of countries have chosen to change the total ban on MSM blood donations in favour of either a total abandonment of the ban or the adoption of deferral periods. The countries who have abandoned the ban fully include Chile, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Thailand and Uruguay. The countries with deferral periods include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Hungary, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom. These countries represent an international community which is willing to recognise the inequality of such a ban and have taken action to moderate this ban accordingly while still upholding rigorous scientific standards and quality controls.

We must recognise this and have an open discussion that is informed by the inherent inequality that maintaining the status quo represents. It should be a fundamental obligation of a citizen who has the ability to give blood to do so in the interest of participatory democracy and the common good of the state, especially so in the context of a depleting blood stock and constant appeals for blood donations by the IBTS. However this obligation, a sense of positive participation in society and fulfilling this duty of citizenship is denied to G.B.T. men. While this is inherently counter-intuitive to the central aim of the IBTS to increase the blood supply, it also inherently devalues the worth and contributions that G.B.T. men can make to wider society and the common good.

It should be also noted that a number of LGBT organisations and youth organisations have come out in support of repealing the MSM Blood donation ban. They include a number of local students’ union, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), Gay Doctors Ireland, Labour Youth, Ógra Fianna Fáil, Young Fine Gael and an assortment of various political and civic organisations.

We, in adding our names to this petition, call on Minister for Health Dr Leo Varadkar, Chair of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service Prof Anthony Staines and the Chief Executive of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service Mr Andrew Kelly to review the policy position of the MSM blood donation ban. We formally seek the repeal of the MSM blood ban and call on the Minister and representatives of the IBTS to engage in meaningful public discourse on this issue.

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