Once again it seems that Northern Ireland is going to be left behind by a Minister who has delayed policies in the past in another department.
Today Edwin Poots MLA, our Health Minister informed the Health Committee in the Assembly that the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood was not going to be lifted, unlike what is happening in the rest of the United Kingdom.
It is clear that the Minister is not really taking the same advice as his counterparts across the water. A number of organisations and political parties have been making comments.
Are we expected to be self-sufficient with our own blood supply?
This is a fair point made by John O’Doherty of The Rainbow Project, if Northern Ireland is excluding donations, are we able to accept blood from the rest of the UK? I am not sure that we currently do accept blood from there – but surely it would possibly extend to donations of other organs.
The HIV Support Centre‘s new Director, Danny McQuillan response highlighted the need for focusing on the sexual behaviour of all blood donors. He also suggested that the continuance of this policy would discriminate and stigmatise people based on their sexual orientation:
We urge the Minister to re-think this decision and adopt a policy that will protect pubilc safety, a policy focusing on excluding those who engage in high-risk and unsafe sexual behaviour, not a policy that discriminates and stigmatises people based on their sexual orientation.
said Danny McQuillan, Director of The HIV Support Centre.
I really believe that it is time for Northern Ireland to ‘grow up’. Gay men are not the only ones that take part in high-risk sexual behaviour. How many other people are having unsafe sex regularly? It is likely that there are many, yet they are not banned for life. We need to look at this and get it sorted out.
- Lifetime blood ban ‘prejudicial’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Northern Ireland minister under fire over ban on gay men giving blood (guardian.co.uk)
- UK Libs want gay blood restrictions lifted (therainbowpost.com)