Following todays revelations that the DUP Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety Edwin Poots MLA will not be implementing key changes in relation to blood donations in Northern Ireland, The Rainbow Project has called on members of the Assembly to question the ministers motivation.

Director of The Rainbow Project, John O’Doherty, said ‘If the Minister truly wanted to minimise the risk in blood management he should be listening to the experts and ensuring that assessments are carried out on the basis of risk not sexual orientation. There is a serious need for more blood donors and a lifetime ban for any section of our community that is not based on actual scientific evidence is discriminatory. Since the decision has not been taken on the basis of scientific evidence I must call into question the ministers motivation on this issue which appears to be homophobia, not healthcare.’

He concluded ‘I hope other right thinking members of the Assembly follow John McCallisters lead in calling into question the Ministers motivation on this matter’.

For further information please contact John O’Doherty on 028 9031 9030

Health Minister Edwin Poots said:

“This is a complex area. 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.

“Britain is set to become the first place in Europe to remove the lifetime ban specifically for men who have sex with other men. Italy and Spain have time-limited deferrals for anyone engaging in high risk sexual behaviour while all other EU countries continue to operate a lifetime ban. The United States and Canada also operate life bans.”

Statement by John McCallister

McCallister questions Health Minister’s motives over refusal to lift ban on gay blood donation in NI

Ulster Unionist Health spokesperson John McCallister MLA has questioned the motives behind Health Minister, Edwin Poot’s refusal to lift the ban on gay and bi-sexual men donating blood in Northern Ireland.

Mr McCallister commented; “I am disappointed that the Health Minister has announced he will not be lifting the ban on gay and bi-sexual men donating blood in Northern Ireland.  Considering the strong medical evidence in support of lifting the ban, it is bewildering that the Minister should take this stance – especially when the demand for blood has never been higher. In Northern Ireland, around 500 people need to accept lifesaving blood every week and to meet this demand we need around 300 people to give blood each and every day.’

“In a written response to a question from Danny Kinahan MLA asking whether the ban would be lifted, the Minister said that he would not be altering the current position in Northern Ireland as relaxing the present lifetime referral would see an increased risk of contracting the HIV infection.’

“What the Minister failed to highlight was that under the current United Kingdom guidelines of a 12 month deferral period before donating blood the chance of contracting HIV stands at 1 in every 4.38million donations.  With a lifetime ban the risk stands at 1 in every 4.41 million donations.  Given that this is such a small margin I cannot see the logic behind the Minister’s decision to turn away willing donators.’

“Given the DUP’s views on homosexuality, it would seem that the Minister’s decision has not been made as a result of the medical evidence available alone. We cannot turn willing blood donors away because of out-dated and irrational prejudice.’

Listen to John O’Doherty’s contribution to The Nolan Show here

John’s interview on UTVLIVE here

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