30 Queer Men Turned Down to Donate Blood - End the Gay Blood Ban!

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During the rise of HIV and Hepatitis B in the 70s and 80s the UK Government enforced a blanket ban on men who have sex with men donating blood.

In 2011 this ban was changed slightly - the ban would only last a year after a man had sex with another man, meaning that if any queer men wanted to donate blood they would have to abstain from sex with men for a year.

While the law was changed in the rest of the UK, the northern Irish state enforced the lifetime ban and this year alone 30 men were turned down for donating blood - despite the fact that there is a 40% dive in donations and 204,000 new donors are needed.

While it is easier for individuals with vaginas to contract HIV through vaginal intercourse there is no ban on women who have sex with men who also have sex with men on donating blood. There is also no ban on those who do not practice safe sex donating blood.

The North's health minister at the time that the law was changed in 2011, Edwin Poots, was found to have been "infected by apparent bias" by his stance of upholding the lifetime ban, with the North being the only part of the UK to do so.

During the High Court challenge, Poots claimed that the ban existed to protect public health and safety. When his ban was found to be irrational, however, he claimed that "There is a continual battering of Christian principles, and I have to say this - shame on the courts, for going down the route of constantly attacking Christian principles, Christian ethics and Christian morals" - so his ban was clearly not influenced by religious homophobia at all...

This stance by a member of the DUP is not surprising considering their attempt last year at erasing queers from public life by introducing a conscience clause which effectively would have meant that businesses could refuse service to people on account of their sexuality and claim that it was done as a response to "religious persecution". Had they have gotten their way this would have amounted to persecution by the religious bigots.

In the south a lifetime ban remains with talk of it being changed to the one-year model that exists in the UK. The ban in the southern state is currently being challenged in law by 23-year-old Tomás Heneghan on the grounds that the interview and questionnaire process used by the Irish Blood Transfusion Process fails to adequately assess the risk of disease transmission posed by his donation which is in breach of EU legislation.

At a time when blood donations are sorely needed this blood ban should be seen as what it really is - lazy homophobic nonsense dressed up as "public concern."

WORDS: Fionnghuala Nic Roibeaird

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