A homosexual pressure group is calling for Northern Ireland to lift the safeguard which prevents men who have ever had sex with men from giving blood.
In the rest of the UK the lifelong safeguard will be lifted from 7 November. From then on men whose last sexual contact with another man was more than 12 months ago will be allowed to donate.
Men who have sex with men (MSM) have, as a group, a higher risk of sexually acquired blood-borne viruses.
The Rainbow Project, which campaigns on behalf of homosexual and bisexual men in Northern Ireland, wants the safeguard removed in the Province.
Its Director, John O’Doherty, complained Northern Ireland had been “left out in the cold”.
He added: “The Rainbow Project will continue to lobby and campaign for the full removal of the MSM blood ban and the introduction of new safeguards that ensure any risk to those receiving blood donations is removed, but also so that anyone whose blood is not of any risk to others are able to donate blood”.
A spokeswoman from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety said Minister Edwin Poots is considering whether the lifetime deferral should be changed.
Responding to the news of the change in Britain, sexual health charity the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) said the blood safeguard was “a public health issue, rather than one of homophobic discrimination”.
Sir Nick Partridge, chief executive of the THT, noted: “The remaining deferral regulation for sexually active gay men is based on their heightened risk, as a group, of sexually acquired blood-borne viruses.”
However he also told the BBC it was impossible to say how many men would actually be able to start donating blood as “the vast majority of gay men are still [sexually] active”.