Northern Ireland's decision to lift its ban preventing gay men from donating blood has been described as 'momentous' by leading gay-rights activist Malachai O'Hara.
The decision to relax the ruling and allow men to give blood if they have not had sexual contact with another man for at least 12 months follows similar moves in the rest of the United Kingdom. In 2011, England, Scotland and Wales all repealed the ban, which had come into being in the 1980s.
O'Hara, health and wellbeing services manager for The Rainbow Project, said the change in law, which will come into effect on 1 September, represented a big step forward for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
"It's momentous, because this is the first time ever that we have seen progress on LGBT issues in terms of equality from the executive and the government in Northern Ireland," he told Julia Hartley-Brewer.
"The minister refused to follow the other health ministers in England, Scotland and Wales in 2011, and yet in 2012 we were importing blood from other parts of the UK, which just seems ridiculous."
The Rainbow Project believe that, with the advance in medical treatment for the likes of HIV and AIDS, more work needs to be done on blood-donation laws to address restrictions surrounding sex workers and those with tattoos or body piercings.
"As an organisation we're supporting a review around the guidelines of blood donation," O'Hara said. "We'd like to see it move to one that's based on the level of risk.
"In terms of HIV and AIDS, it's not what it was 30 years ago.
"At that time it was an illness that could cause death in a number of years, but since then we’ve had huge advances in medical treatment and people can live happy, healthy and fulfilled lives with HIV."