(EDGE) A lifetime ban on gay men donating blood that was created in the UK during the '80s AIDS crisis is about to be lifted, reports the BBC.
Health Minister Michelle O'Neill said the new policy will come into effect on September 1. England, Scotland and Wales lifted the ban in November 2011.
O'Neill said that she would lift the ban in favor of a "one-year deferral system," as is the case with the rest of the UK. This means that men who have sex with men can give blood one year after their last sexual contact with a man.
"The safety of donated blood depends on two things: donor selection and the testing of blood," said O'Neill. "Every blood donation is tested for HIV and a number of other organisms. Not even the most advanced tests are 100 percent reliable, so it is vitally important for every donor to comply with any deferral rules that apply to them."
O'Neill said that she would instruct the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Services accordingly.
Local advocates were pleased by the removal of the ban, with Mark H. Durkan of SDLP saying the ban had led to a "ludicrous situation" where gay men couldn't donate blood, but people in Northern Ireland could received donated blood from other gay men in the UK, "where there was no such ban."
"Today is a victory for common sense and for equality," said Durkan. "I only regret it took so long for the Department of Health to lift the ban and remove some of the prejudice against gay people in the north."
Alliance Party MLA Kellie Armstrong described the lifting of the ban as a "massive step towards true equality," saying, "I am pleased action has finally been taken and an absurd blood ban that everyone could see was not based on available evidence but rather discrimination has been ended."
Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.