Gay blood ban decision 'outdated'

Published Thursday, 22 September 2011
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A UUP MLA has described the decision not to lift a lifetime ban on gay men donating blood in Northern Ireland as "outdated."

Health Minister Edwin Poots has confirmed that the ban, which is set to be partially lifted in the UK in November, will remain in place in the region.

In England, Scotland and Wales, gay men will be allowed to donate blood if they have not had sex with another man for a period of at least 12 months.

Mr Poots has described the situation as "complex."

"Blood-borne infections, well-recognised or as yet undiscovered, have the potential to destroy healthy lives. Public safety must be my primary concern, and I want the Northern Ireland public to have maximum confidence in our blood supply," the DUP minister added.

He stated that other countries also operated life bans.

But South Down UUP MLA John McCallister has accused Mr Poots of "irrational prejudice."

It is bewildering that the minister should take this stance - especially when the demand for blood has never been higher.

South Down MLA John McCallister

The MLA claimed that the DUP's views on homosexuality played a part in the minister's stance on blood donation.

He said that Mr Poot's decision "has not been made as a result of the medical evidence available alone."

"We cannot turn willing blood donors away because of outdated and irrational prejudice," Mr McCallister added.

The Sinn Féin chair of the Health Committee, Michelle Gildernew, also hit out at the decision, describing it as "wrong."

She said: "This decision is wrong and Edwin Poots needs to reverse it."

She said the minister was "bringing his own prejudice into play" and had taken his decision "without consultation with the Health Committee."

"This is just feeding into the discrimination that people from the gay, lesbian and bi-sexual community already suffer," she said.

"It goes without saying that we need to have robust screening of blood, whoever it comes from."

The Alliance party health spokesperson, Kieran McCarthy, described the ban as "disgraceful."

"What sort of message does this send out?" Mr McCarthy asked.

"We must have a society based on fairness and this refusal to lift this ban is deeply troubling. This refusal sets a very worrying precedent."

Restrictions on gay donors were put in place in the 1980s as a result of the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The reform comes into effect in Great Britain on 7 November following an extensive review of the issue by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs.

The HIV Support Centre called on the DUP minister to change his decision.

"A person's sexuality is not a predetermining factor in the safety of blood transfusion. The real focus should be paid to the sexual behaviour of all blood donors," Director of The HIV Support Centre Danny Mc Quillan said.

© UTV News
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26 Comments
clare in belfast wrote (1,129 days ago):
There is a higher risk of blood borne infection from "the way" in which gay men have sex....however,straight people also have sex in this way.I`m sure the blood transfusion staff don`t bother asking what "way" you prefer to have sex.This is exactly the reason why this "rule" is stupid and completely senseless and should be scrapped. The health service needs all the blood it can get! All donations are tested for infection before being distributed anyway..so why the problem!
E in ni wrote (1,129 days ago):
can not believe what Im reading here... considering STDs can come from straight people as well, if all of you against prob looked up the stats most of recorded stds come from straight people and straight people can get aids too. what needs to be done is better screening and testing before blood can be used. I for one if needed blood or my family would hope that is the case and i would not care for it origins. There is alot of people who need blood and palettes and there is a shortage.
Andy in Lurgan wrote (1,129 days ago):
Do any of your people realise how hurtful it is to come on here with your ill thought out comments basically accusing gay people of all having an infection in their blood? It is downright hurtful and some of you seriously need to take a long hard look at yourselves.
bigmac in United Kingdom wrote (1,130 days ago):
So lets put this little teaser to some people out there, you have a very sick child that has a very rare blood group, hospitals around the world cant supply the same group,along comes a stranger male,female i dont care turns out the stranger is gay with the same group ,are some people telling me hand on heart they would turn their offer down.
John in dromore wrote (1,130 days ago):
I haven't heard one word of homophobia from Edwin Poots that this had anything to do with religion but instead plenty of bias against him having a christian view point - ironic?
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