The Northern Ireland gay blood ban looks set to continue with the news from the DUP’s health minister, Edwin Poots MLA, that he has received some new research strengthening his position.
As reported on the BBC, the minister says he doesn’t want the ban just to apply to gays. But I have an issue with what he has said:
I think that people who engage in high risk sexual behaviour in general should be excluded from giving blood.
And so someone who has sex with somebody in Africa or sex with prostitutes, I am very reluctant about these people being able to give blood.
It is all very well for the minister to hide behind these statements, but he is missing the point. Not all gay men engage in high risk sex.
In the rest of the UK, gay men can give blood providing that they have abstained from sex for a year. But, as Tom Riddington says,
the new guidelines in the rest of the UK still classify all gay men as unsafe as those who use prostitutes or sleep with intravenous drug users. The remaining limitations are a reminder that deeply ingrained discrimination persists.
In the week that the UUP’s Lord Maginnis, on the Nolan Show, suggested that being gay was
deviant and the first step on the rung to bestiality
I am concerned that Mr Poots is hiding behind research to perpetuate deeply ingrained prejudice.
Even the new guidelines in the rest of the UK fail to acknowledge variance in sexual practice in the gay community.
A gay man who uses condoms and only has oral sex with a monogamous partner is immediately excluded from donating. A heterosexual man who does not use contraception and has many partners is not.
The blood transfusion service is using the tag line: Give Blood Not Excuses.
As Stephen Glenn said back in April,
Well it appears that I might just be able to avoid all the excuses at some point over 3,590 days from now, only if I resist the urge to have sex with someone with whom I have same sex attraction for 10 years. Even if I were to only have sex and only safe sex with one man who only has sex with me for that period it won’t be good enough for Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO).
Unlike Stephen, I put myself in the category of not being able to give blood. I am living with HIV. However, most gay men in Northern Ireland are not living with HIV. And if it is HIV that is the major concern, can we please examine the science a little further? How come after a test outside ‘the window’ from when a man had sex with another man, the doctors at the GUM clinics can assure that the person will not be infected yet the SaBTO thinks you have to wait 9 years and 9 months longer than that window person.
Can the minister confirm that he is working with The HIV Support Centre, the Rainbow Project, and the Public Health Agency to ensure that everyone in Northern Ireland heterosexual and homosexual know whether they are living with HIV? I am one of the lucky ones, I know that I am living with HIV. I am on treatment which is working to suppress the virus. This means that I much more healthy than I was when I did not know that I was living with HIV. We should be getting everyone to know their HIV status in Northern Ireland.
Let’s hope that the politicians up on the hill in Stormont will actually question the minister closely on his continuing ban on gay men giving blood, and I will be in touch with my MLAs to ask them to raise these issues.
Originally posted on Gyronny Herald.