The sound of the chimes at midnight signalled the end of an era in Northern Ireland with the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood coming to an end today. The move was reported back in June, with Health Minister and Sinn Féin MLA for Mid Ulster, Michelle O’Neil l announcing the lifting a ban originally introduced in 1981.
The move brings Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the Uk which since 2011 has operated a one year deferral system meaning that men who have had sexual contact with another man must wait a year before donating blood. Of course, this continues to put those men who have sexual contact with other men in a different category but this move is more evidence-based and progressive. It is worth comparing it with the situation in the United States. There the regulator, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) bans gay men from donating blood resulting in a vocal campaign which found particular power and voice in the hours and days following the Orlando massacre earlier this year. A whole community desperate to support and console one another with practical and urgent help had to look on and rely on those outside the community to help it.