Last year there was some controversy over Northern Ireland Health Minister Edwin Poots refusing to lift the permanent ban on men who engage in gay sex from giving blood. Many wanted NI to come into line with the rest of the UK which insists the donor must not have had gay sex within the last 12 months. Recent reports by the HSA & The Lancet reinforce the reasons why blood donor organisations worldwide all have similar high risk categories who cannot give blood. The recently published report entitled `HIV in the United Kingdom: 2012 Report` states “the number of people living with diagnosed HIV has risen year on year, with an increase in number of new diagnoses among men who have sex with men (MSM) and people born in high prevalence countries”.
At the time the SDLP`s Conal McDevitt said Edwin Poots comments regarding blood donations from gay men were both repellent and unscientific: “The Minister’s comments perpetuate a tired mythology of cultural promiscuity in the gay community which troubles me as an advocate of a more accepting, shared society. Yet the BBC reports today that “Scientists, writing in the Lancet Infectious Diseases say there has been a return of risky sexual practices” amongst gay and bisexual men.
Also at the time Sinn Fein`s Paul Maskey MP tweeted “Maybe Edwin should visit the Falls Park today and tell the many African people, their blood is no use here. Asylum and Refugee week.” And Fergus O’Hare a former Sinn Fein councillor tweeted “Edwin Poots says anyone who has had sex in Africa should be banned from giving blood. That rules out most Africans I reckon. Sack the idiot!” yet the science backs up Blood Donor organisation rules and the Northern Ireland Health Minister`s stance.
Kieran McCarthy Alliance MLA said at the time: “We should be encouraging people to donate blood, not telling perfectly eligible people that they are banned from donating blood.” Yet it is quite clear nearly all Blood organisations around the world take this stance with people in high risk categories such as male gay sex, sex with prostitutes, sex in high risk countries like Africa & drug users. The Australian Blood Service has an almost identical list of such high risk groups as listed in the UK. The Canadian Blood Services currently have a total exclusion as well.
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