Gay rights groups accuse NI health minister of ignoring them

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Campaigners against the gay blood donation ban have accused Northern Ireland health minister Edwin Poots of snubbing them.

Mr Poots announced last week that he would not lift the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood, despite the rest of the UK doing so on November 7th.

The minister, who has been accused of homophobia, said relaxing the rules could lead to HIV transmission.

Gay rights group The Rainbow Project said it had written to Mr Poots on September 8th and has received no reply.

Director John O’Docherty told the Belfast Telegraph: “We are very disappointed the minister has not yet responded to us, even with an acknowledgement letter.
“We are keen to meet with him to discuss the decision.

“Mr Poots will still accept blood from other parts of the UK but will not allow gay men in Northern Ireland to donate blood.

“There are serious questions about the legality of this decision. We are currently considering a number of steps but hope he changes his position.”

Writing last week, Mr Poots said: “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.”

Earlier this month, UK health ministers announced that the rules would be relaxed in England, Wales and Scotland on November 7th – allowing gay and bisexual men to donate if they refrain from sex for 12 months.

The decision followed a review by the government’s Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO).

Some campaigners have argued that any ban based on sexual orientation is discriminatory and may break European law.