Plans by Northern Irish authorities to reduce the amount of time men who have sex with men have to wait after sexual activity to give blood have been welcomed by the National Union of Students-Union of Students in Ireland (NUS-USI) as a good first step.

However, the NUS-USI, which oversees the student movement in Northern Ireland, has reiterated its calls for the “discriminatory ban” to be scrapped completely.

And the Union of Students in Ireland has said the same approach must also be taken in the Republic of Ireland, which currently bans men who have sex with men from donating blood for 12 months after sexual activity.

Describing the announcement that will take effect from June 1 and bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK, which has had a three-month wait since 2017, as a “positive step” NUS-USI President, Robert Murtagh called for the wait-period to be completely removed.

Robert said: “It is a positive step forward that the MSM [men who have sex with men] deferral period ban on giving blood has been reduced. In Northern Ireland, this discriminatory ban is a hangover from the 1980s, a time that has long since passed. In this time of crisis, it is welcome that sense has prevailed. Any system of blood donation should be based on individual risk and not sweeping generalisations of entire communities.”

USI Vice-President for the Southern Region, Darren Malone called for the Republic of Ireland to follow the Northern Irish approach and for the Irish Government to get rid of the ban completely.

Darren said: “The lifetime ban on gay men donating blood to the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) was lifted in January 2017 and replaced with a 12-month abstinence deferral period which means that a man who last had sex with another man more than 12 months ago is now able to donate blood if he meets the other blood donor selection criteria.

“The IBTS has set strict guidelines for those who are eligible to donate to ensure that all donations are safe to use and to protect donors and recipients. And so, eligibility decided on sexuality is extremely discriminatory and no one should be denied the right to donate blood based on their sexuality.”

The latest USI motion, passed in 2019, mandated that: “The VP Equality and Citizenship campaign for the abolishment of the deferral period to ensure that MSM who meet all other eligibility criteria will be eligible to donate blood in Ireland.”