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Gay blood ban: Lifetime prohibition on donations lifted

A lifetime ban on gay men donating blood is to be lifted today
A lifetime ban on gay men donating blood is to be lifted today A lifetime ban on gay men donating blood is to be lifted today

A CONTROVERSIAL lifetime ban on gay men donating blood is to be officially lifted today.

News of the change was announced by Health Minister Michelle O'Neill in June. The decision to lift the ban came after a long campaign by gay rights activists and a series of court battles.

The ban was introduced in the UK in 1981, during the AIDS crisis, but was lifted in Britain in 2011 and replaced with rules that allowed gay men to give blood 12 months after their last sexual encounter with another man.

Northern Ireland had retained the lifetime ban after successive DUP health ministers cited blood safety concerns.

However the north's new one-year deferral policy brings it into line with Britain.

Mrs O'Neill said: "As Health Minister my first responsibility in this matter is patient safety".

"Surveillance data from England, Scotland and Wales and survey evidence from across Britain and the north of Ireland have provided assurance that the risk is lower with a one-year deferral," she said.

"My decision is based on the evidence regarding the safety of donated blood."

In the most recent court judgment on the gay blood ban, the Court of Appeal decided the decision on whether to lift the ban rested with Stormont, not the UK Health Secretary.

A previous ruling that former DUP health minister Edwin Poots had acted with pre-determined bias based on his Christian beliefs in retaining the ban was overturned.

LGBT group the Rainbow Project has welcomed the removal of the lifetime ban but said the deferral policy means only a handful of men will still be able to donate blood.

Project director John O’Doherty said it was "hugely thankful" to Ms O'Neill for lifting the ban but said "there are still irrational barriers placed in the way of gay and bisexual men when they want to donate blood".

"There must be a recognition that two men in a monogamous relationship pose zero risk to the blood supply," he said.

"They cannot magically create HIV between them. And yet as long as they have sex they will never be allowed to donate blood. This is not science, it is stigma."