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Northern Ireland: Ban on gay men donating blood ‘brings shame’

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  1. Dennis Battler 17 Apr 2012, 4:22am

    Good on Ireland … Canada still enforces a ban on gay men donating blood.

    Most of Canadian blood donation is from a loyal 3 % of the population, donating repeatedly throughout the year. Repeat donors numbers have been slowly shrinking, while the development of new medical procedures has increased the need for blood. Need outpacing supply has produced seasonal shortages.

    Yet Canadian Blood Services has gone to extreme lengths to enforce the policies banning the MSM community (men having sex with men) from donating blood. On September 28, 2009, a trial between CBS and a former York University student, Kyle Freeman, began in the Superior Court of Ontario. Freeman donated blood and did not disclose that he had had sex with another man. CBS is suing Freeman for misrepresenting his sexual history and intentionally violating their policy. Freeman is counter suing CBS for discrimination.

    1. “Good on Ireland”? I think you misunderstood the story.

      This is about Northern Ireland, which has refused to follow the rest of the UK in permitting donations from MSMs under certain conditions. NI still has an absolute ban; Edwin Poots, the health minister, is a creationist religious right-winger, of a sort found nowhere else in the UK or Ireland except in NI.

      Incidentally, the Republic of Ireland also has a total ban on donations by MSMs. The UK decision has forced the North to give this issue formal consideration, but in the South MSM donation is not even up for discussion currently. I believe this is why the NUS-USI statement does not comment on the situation in the Republic.

  2. If Spain, Germany, Latvia, Poland, Italy and others can ensure safe blood supplies from MSM – why should it be beyond the imagination and ability of Irish scientists?

  3. It funny too that Northern Ireland actually receives blood donations from the mainland UK to “ensure adequate supply”. So people from Northern Ireland are technically receiving blood donated by gay people anyway.

  4. Evidence given to the NI Assembly (Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety) on 26 October 2011—Lifetime-Ban-on-Men-Who-Have-Sex-with-Men-Donating-Blood/

    There are a number of quotes which are interesting which I will paste below:

    1. “.. unclear about how the Minister arrived at a different decision from his counterparts in England, Scotland and Wales after, as far as we can see, reviewing exactly the same information. We need to know whether he received additional information or advice that differed from what is in the SaBTO report, and we seek clarity on the advice taken. … we are unaware of what other information was provided to the Minister. Under freedom of information legislation, we have requested whatever other evidence the Minister used in making his decision. We have been told that a decision is being made on whether it is in the public interest to advise us of what other evidence the Minister used ..”

      Why would England, Wales and Scotland make a decision that was different to NI, if the evidence is the same?

      If the evidence isnt the same, why would a NI minister lack transparency and prevent NI people being aware of how he reached this decision – and also deprive other parts of the UK of the data?

    2. “The decision also impacts on the integrity of the Govt, as it put this Govt out of line with the Govts of England, Scotland and Wales and puts the Blood Transfusion Serv out of line with its counterparts. As far as we understand, the Minister didnt consult the Committee, which affects the Committee’s integrity.”

      Why did the minister not involve the committee on health in relation to this, why did he reach a unilateral decision? Was this evidence of homophobia? Without knowing the evidence he has considered the doubt will always remain.

      “The Minister and the Dept are being less than transparent in how they came to that decision. We dont understand how it is not in the public interest to disclose evidence that was viewed when a decision was taken that was different from other Govts. All the experts on the SaBTO committee, the UK Govt, the NHS Blood Serv, the Scottish Govt and the Welsh Govt say 1year deferral is acceptable. The minister says it is not.”

      How did he decide this?

    3. ” it is our understanding that the Minister’s two main grounds for his decision were, first, that all other countries in the European Union have a lifetime ban. That is not true: Italy and Spain do not. ” [nor do Poland or Latvia now]

      It appears the minister considered evidence that was untrue.

      “The Minister said that his decision was made on the grounds of safety. However, he hasnt produced any evidence outside the SaBTO report — which states that there are no significant safety concerns — to justify his concern about safety. Moreover, he has said that blood will be taken from England, Scotland and Wales under the system they will implement, which starts in about 11 days’ time. There are higher incidences of HIV in England, Scotland and Wales than in N Ireland. Therefore, in order for the Minister’s argument to be consistent with the lifetime ban on the grounds of safety, he would have to apply the ban to blood from England, Scotland and Wales as well. That is not the case”


    4. “Blood products in the UK have been tested for antibodies since 1985, and new technology called HIV ribonucleic acid (RNA) detection has been used since 2007. It looks for genetic material of HIV composed in RNA. HIV-specific sequences of RNA can be detected by nucleic-acid amplification testing. It detects HIV approx 9 days after exposure. Using NAT technology and applying the 12 months’ deferral means that HIV infection would definitely be picked up. The same technology is used to detect other blood-borne pathogens.”

      The evidence shows a reasonable deferral period due to behaviour does compromise safety of blood. Why does the minister disagree?

      “In Australia, a 1yr deferral period exists where previously there was a 5yr deferral period. A report into the comparisons between the 2 deferral periods found 2 things: there was no significant increase in HIV transmission among MSM when a deferral period is in place. Non compliance presents a much bigger risk.”

    5. “One of the things we have to address is not so much the risk as regards blood coming from England but the fact that we are getting blood from there. Therefore, the implementation of a ban here is nonsense. It is irrelevant.”

  5. Spanner1960 17 Apr 2012, 3:36pm

    Here we go again.
    Put a sock in it dammit.
    You wouldnt have unprotected sex with a strangers, so why should you expect to have a blood donation?
    Gay men are a risk, and part of the screening process is eliminating that risk. It’s not homophobia, it’s simple common sense.

    1. As Nathan has rightly shown, the evidence does not support your argument.

      The ban does not keep blood safer.

      1. Spanner1960 17 Apr 2012, 4:52pm

        Are you prepared to take that risk? Do you want to tell some Mother her kid is HIV+ just because we had to keep gay people happy?

        1. Has that happened in Italy, Spain, Latvia or Poland?

          Given RNA testing identifies HIV presence 9 days post exposure then rigorous testing can be made and any infected blood identified.

          The safety is there and rigorous.

          The risk levels have actually decreased since they made the changes in Spain – why do citizens of NI or any part of the UK deserve less safe blood, merely to massage their prejudices about gay men?

          1. Spanner1960 18 Apr 2012, 9:37am

            So what happens if you are given blood before then?
            Some blood components start to deteriorate almost immediately so have to be used very quickly.

            I have nothing against gay people donating IF there is a workable test, but currently there isn’t anything that will detect the virus if it is in the bloodstream, but hasn’t entered the cells or replicated. That is just way too high a risk to take.

          2. Spain, Latvia and Italy do not allow blood to be given before it has been stored for 12 days (as I understand it) – so that risk would not occur.

  6. What do you expect from a man who thinks the world is 5000 years old? The DUP are the biggest party in NI, the only party that wont attend gay pride and voted no to civil partnerships in 2004.
    Fact is, British people in Northern Ireland are the most bigoted in the Western World. “Hate capital of Europe”. Google it.

    The 45% Irish population living there are far more liberal. With all Irish Nationalist parties attending gay pride and having LGBT wings.

  7. P A Mag LOCHLAINN 18 Apr 2012, 4:27pm

    Poots said on BBC Spotlight (21 February 2012) bases his ban on the “scientific fact” that he a actually “knows people who contracted haemophilia through blood transfusions.” Yes, you read correctly! This is the sort of “science” our NI Health Minister believes in!

    1. Hes laughable. Haemophilia through blood transfusion lol lol lol

  8. even though there is medical evidence indicating it is unsafe for blood to come from gay men?

    but let’s ignore the medical evidence folks.

    and let’s make everything about rights, and ignore medical risks.

    1. No there is no medical evidence that being gay makes blood unsafe

      Having a BBV makes blood unsafe

      Not all gay men have BBVs

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