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9 MIN READ TIME

No: 11 The Blood Ban

by Tomas Heneghan

I was 16 the first time someone told me I could never donate blood. I was in school, looking at sample donor questionnaires the teacher had given the class. I wasn’t out and hadn’t accepted I was gay, but that didn’t stop another student in class turning around to me and saying I would never be able to donate blood because of one question on the form. “Have you ever had anal or oral sex with another man?”

I first donated blood eight years ago. It was three months after my 18th birthday. I kept donating until my tenth donation on the morning of my 21st birthday, when soon, after an anonymous query was made about me and my sexual orientation, the Irish Blood Transfusion Service immediately moved to ban me. Although the issue was eventually resolved, I started, for the first time, to really look at the policy on blood donations from men who have sex with men (MSM). It was blatantly discriminatory, unscientific and indefensible.

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