Northern Ireland Relaxes Blood Donation Rules for Gay and Bi Men

The policy now mirrors guidelines in the rest of the U.K.

The U.S. isn't the only country to relax its outdated blood donation guidelines for queer men during the coronavirus pandemic.

Northern Ireland has shortened its deferral period for blood donations from men who have sex with other men (MSM) to three months, BBC News reports. Previously, MSM in Northern Ireland had to abstain from sex for 12 months before being eligible to donate blood. The updated guidance goes into effect on June 1, 2020.

The new blood donation policy puts Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the U.K., which implemented a three-month deferral period back in 2017. It's a big deal coming from the historically Catholic country, whose conservative Parliament only ruled to legalize marriage equality and abortion last October. Northern Ireland's first same-sex wedding occurred this February.

In a statement confirming the new rules, Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann said the decision was made based on "evidence regarding the safety of donated blood."

As NewNowNext previously reported, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also made a landmark decision in early April to shorten its deferral period for MSM blood donors, citing "unprecedented challenges to the U.S. blood supply" brought on by COVID-19.

The change came after years of urging from LGBTQ advocates, who said the 12-month deferral period—a holdover from the AIDS crisis in the 1980s—was antiquated and discriminatory. Still, many advocates are encouraging the FDA to nix its deferral period for MSM entirely, especially as the coronavirus pandemic stretches on.

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