Belfast Telegraph

Edwin Poots accused of prejudice over ban on gay blood donors

By Lesley-Anne Henry

The Health Minister has been accused of “outdated” and “irrational prejudice” over his refusal to relax the lifetime ban on gay men giving blood.

Edwin Poots said he believed the current position in Northern Ireland “should not be altered” and in a written response to a UUP MLA, the minister said he had come to the controversial decision because of safety concerns.

“The Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) has confirmed that the risk of HIV infection would, although by a small margin, increase as a result of a relaxation in the present lifetime deferral,” he said.

A lifetime ban on blood donations by men who have had same sex relations was put in place in the UK in the 1980s as a response to the spread of Aids and HIV. But following a review, men who have not had homosexual sex for a year can donate.

Gay rights campaigner PA Mag Lochlainn said: “I am very surprised that a minister who is a member of a unionist party should consider what is good enough for British people in the rest of the UK is not good enough for British people in Northern Ireland.”

UUP health spokesman John McCallister was “bewildered” by the Health Minister’s decision. He said: “We cannot turn willing blood donors away because of out-dated and irrational prejudice.”

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